While 20,000 students in Ohio are using a state voucher to attend the private school of their choice, many students are shut out because they do not meet the narrow eligibility guidelines of the current voucher programs. In this ongoing series, we share stories from just a few of the families who wish that they, too, had a choice.
As a parent that knows first hand the challenges of navigating the current educational options in our system I can tell you that a Special Education Scholarship will open the doors for parents to finally have real options when it comes to the educational services for their children with Special needs.
My son, Sam, is 16 years old and has Down syndrome. I’m a strong believer in public schools but my past experiences in my home district have been very frustrating. As a parent, I know my son better than anyone. Our discussions were exhausting and not parent friendly or student centered. For example, I was informed that providing services for my son was an inconvenience to the district. When we were at our public school I found many willing teachers and therapists but a lack of shared vision for our sons future by the administration and therefore a breakdown in progress. Also, even when there were appropriate services available for the children, I found that the district seemed to operate a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy – if a parent didn’t know exactly what program or service to ask for, the school didn’t offer it. This is very unfortunate for the uninformed parent or the parent with little experience in navigating the special education maze.
The Special Education Scholarship would allow me to send Sam to programs where the educators are willing and ready to partner with the family to fully embrace the needs of these special learners. It would create a better environment for our entire family. It would also greatly lessen the financial, emotional, and mental strain of families with students with special needs. I am also working with a group of parents and professionals in our county to develop new services for students who learn and have needs like my son. The Special Education Scholarship would allow us to provide these services to even more students in our community.
All learners are special, we just need to have the courage to find that which makes them unique and build on it. Special Education is a service, not a location and I am just asking to have the opportunity to choose a better quality of service for my son.