Lawmaker Announces 2015 Education Choice Plan For Special Needs Children

Apr 17, 2014

Credit Ryan Poppe / TPR News

April is National Autism Awareness Month and state Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, has announced plans for a bill in 2015 that allows special needs children to attend classes in a school district without living in that district.

New statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control show that 1 in 68 U.S. children have some form of autism; Simmons, who has a 29-year-old son with a form of autism, said that means 6,000 children annually in Texas will be affected.

Simmons said one of the biggest challenges for parents is finding a school that can cater to the various forms of the disorder.

"If I live in Carrollton, Texas, and the speech therapy program is great but I have another family member who lives in Plano and let’s say theirs isn’t, I want that family to send that child to the Carrollton School District without having to move, to sell their house and move the entire family over there," Simmons said. "I want the money to follow the child within the public school system.”

Simmons said all families with a special needs child face the challenge of finding a school that caters to their child's specific need.

Though his plan looks a bit like a voucher program for special needs children, he said it is not since it works all within the public school system and is all state money. But, he said, right now it’s just an idea ahead of the 2015 legislative session.