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Scholarship program an example of publicly funded education at its best

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: July 16, 2013

SINCE the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act was signed into law in 2010, frivolous lawsuits filed by opponents have often dominated associated news coverage. Now it's time to focus on the law's impressive success, not the dissembling of detractors.

Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarships allow the use of state funds (already designated for an individual child's education) to pay for tuition at a private school catering to those with special needs. Before the law passed, a research project gave money to some Oklahoma parents of children with autism to cover their child's services. In a surprising number of cases, parents ultimately returned the money because services simply weren't available.

That's changing. The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship law is a major reason.

Good Shepherd Catholic School at Mercy, which serves children with autism spectrum disorders, opened in 2011 thanks in part to the scholarship law. The school is Oklahoma's first specifically designed for children with autism. School director Brandi Bramlet notes that applied behavioral analysis requires one-on-one interaction, which increases expenses. She said the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship “helps offset that cost so that the parents can afford it.”

The law also is credited with causing an enrollment surge at Town & Country School in Tulsa, which serves children with learning differences. Just as importantly, children with special needs are achieving meaningful improvement thanks to the law, as a recent video from the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs demonstrates.

For more than a year now, OCPA, a free-market think tank, has tracked the progress of three children getting scholarships. Before receiving the scholarship, David Hood said his daughter, Chloe, “wasn't really speaking. She didn't have a lot of facial expressions.” Chloe now can access specialized education. The results: She mastered out of first-grade reading and advanced to second-grade material — at age 5. Her mother, Tara, says Chloe is catching up socially and is “very close to being on target.”

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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