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Special Needs Students Need Education Savings Accounts

Executive Summary

Approximately 13 percent of children attending public schools in the U.S. are children diagnosed with special needs such as autism, speech delays, or vision or hearing impairments. e Texas Education Agency (TEA) reports the state is home to nearly a half-million such students, yet the Houston Chronicle’s investigative reporting indicates this gure may underestimate children with needs. e Chronicle accused the agency and state school districts of limiting the number of students who can receive services. e Chronicle’s data found that the TEA required schools and districts to limit the percentage of students identi ed as having special needs at 8.5 percent, regardless of how many children are deaf, blind, or have other needs—35 percent less than the national average.

Inspiring success stories from states that allow parents to use education savings accounts for their children provide a strong contrast to Texas’ one-size- ts-all approach.

State lawmakers who have enacted education savings accounts have adopted similar designs for each law: With an account, the state deposits approximately 90 percent of a child’s funding from the state formula into a private account that parents use to buy educational products and services for their children. As this brief will explain, the accounts are available to students in Arizona, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Florida. In Tennessee, Mississippi, and Florida, the accounts are only available to children with special needs, giving families the chance to customize their children’s education according to their diagnosis and the speci cations in their Individualized Education Plans (IEP) (for more information on Nevada’s education sav- ings accounts, please see the appendix).

Arizona lawmakers were the first in the nation to make accounts available to families—and children with special needs were the rst students given access. is brief will demonstrate how Texas can adopt provisions already in Arizona’s education savings account law and better help Texas families that long-standing state policies have not provided for.

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