Thirteen private schools have been approved to take part in a new program in which parents of special-needs students in public schools may apply for scholarships that allow their children to transfer to private schools, a state Education Department official said Tuesday.
No official requests have been made by parents for student transfers, Assistant state Superintendent for Special Education Services Misty Kimbrough told members of the House Human Services Committee.
But she talked with 96 parents since June about the program and how it would work, she said.
"Because the law only became effective on Friday we haven't had time to get those official forms into our office yet," she said.
Most of the inquiries have come from the Tulsa area, especially the Broken Arrow, Tulsa and Jenks school districts, Kimbrough said.
"My personal opinion is that there is a specialized school already in existence in Tulsa, Town & Country, and they serve children with learning disabilities," she said. "They've been in existence for quite some time."
Other queries have come from the Oklahoma City metro area and three or four have been made from rural areas, she said.
Until now, none of the private schools that have opted to participate have indicated they are equipped to work with severely disabled children, Kimbrough said.
The House panel met to look into the law, which took effect Friday. It allows children with disabilities who have an individualized education program to qualify for a scholarship to attend any private school that meets the accreditation requirements of the state Board of Education.
Parents may contact their school district to apply for the program.
The Board of Education approved the rules for the program last week. Among other things, the rules prohibit any out-of-state private school from being allowed to take part in the program. The governor is reviewing them, a spokesman said Tuesday.
The scholarship program created through House Bill 3393 calls for the money the public school district receives for educating that child to go to whatever school the child attends.
Kimbrough said the money parents of a child would receive depends on the child's age and disability. Amounts would vary from $5,000 to about $13,000 a year, she said.
"Parents are looking for choice," she said. "Many parents are interested and we'll probably see more interest as the word gets out."
PARTICIPATING PRIVATE SCHOOLS