On May 31, Governor Kasich signed HB 299, which makes revisions to the Autism Scholarship program. The bill makes two changes to the program.
- It expands the categories of individuals who can apply for the Autism Scholarship.
- It revises testing and graduation requirements for students in nonpublic schools, including those using state scholarships.
The Autism Scholarship program, administered by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), allows children with autism to receive scholarships in order to attend special education programs other than those operated by their school districts of residence. ODE awards scholarships annually. In order for a child to qualify for the program, the school district must have identified the student as a child with autism and created an individualized education plan for the student.
Scholarships are awarded after an application is made to ODE. Currently, the law allows any person who is the natural or adoptive parent of a child who has been identified with autism to apply for the autism scholarship. HB 299 expands the definition of “parents” who can apply for the scholarship to include temporary, legal, and permanent custodians of these children. A “custodian” of a child is any person to whom the court has given permanent, temporary, or legal custody.
Broadening the definition of “parents” may allow for more applications for the autism scholarship and result in an increase in the number of scholarships granted. The districts affected will have the funds for the additional scholarships deducted from their calculated state funding allocations and paid to the alternative providers.
Testing and graduation
The other change made by HB 299 involves the ways in which a student who is attending an accredited chartered nonpublic school under any state scholarship program can satisfy state testing requirements for graduation. Chartered nonpublic schools are accredited through the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS).
Currently, students under the scholarship program who are attending accredited chartered nonpublic schools can satisfy high school graduation testing requirements only by taking the nationally standardized college and career readiness assessment and each of seven end-of-course exams. HB 299 allows a student to take an alternative assessment, provided that it has been approved by the Ohio Department of Education and selected by the student’s school.
If you have any additional questions about these legislative revisions to the autism scholarship program, please contact the division of legal services or your board counsel.