Lexie’s Law Aides Least Restrictive Environment

by Gayle Plato

Republican legislators initiated and Governor Brewer signed Lexie’s Law – legislation  that highlights how a marriage of private support, and tax credit to the business sector can inject desperately needed funds into education. 

 Yet many state Democrats are claiming that Lexie’s Law, a tax credit plan for businesses funding scholarships for disabled and some foster children, is hurting state education programs for public special education children (“Republicans’ pandering is hurting those in need,” AZREP Opinions, 5/23/09).

 Special education directors would have to explain to these Senators and other Democrats with misinformation, that district special education departments have students in every community who are public school attendees, placed in private settings.  Those special education cases are often of multiple issues, or unique and rare cases; the public schools directly contract with many private organizations in town.  Simply put, there are plenty of qualifying children with Individual Education Pans (IEPs) already going to private programs on the state and federal dimes.

Under the new initiative, corporations can receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for making donations to organizations that provide scholarships so that children with special needs and foster children can attend private schools. The bill also allows insurance companies—which do not pay state income tax—to receive credits based on the insurance premium taxes they pay.”

(http://www.allianceforschoolchoice.org/MediaCenter/PressReleases/index.cfm?ID=3563&TYPE=1157)

 Lexie’s Law also provides for children often labeled nebulously in categories ranging from Other Health Impaired (OHI) special education, to those children who may not qualify for any funded services.  An Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 Educational Plan, often called just a Section 504 plan, or Accommodation Plan, is a set of needs and guidelines set as plan goals.  Accommodations are done much more informally and without clear funding. One of the most common Section 504 plans is for a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) who needs extra help with direction, limited tasks, and more frequent checks for understanding.  He may not qualify as a special education student, and will not be allotted any modifications of program.  Modifications are covered by federal and state funding, whereas the accommodations aren’t clearly sponsored.    

 What is specifically valuable of the Lexie’s Law legislation, is that it becomes a complimentary provision of the Arizona School Tax Credit program. It helps corporate businesses get money directly to the children in need of special services.  A tax credit to a corporation helps children attend the school of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), of best determined need, with a direct scholarship. The law also brilliantly mandates that the Arizona Department of Education notify families right away  as to who might have a qualifying child.

 Democrats who laud stimulus spending best learn what a real stimulus can be.  A tax credit is help now from private industry and a benefit offered down the road to the noble organizations that step up and offer to fund good education.

 References: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/2009/05/27/20090527wedlets278.html?&wired

http://www.allianceforschoolchoice.org/MediaCenter/PressReleases/index.cfm?ID=3563&TYPE=1157

http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/49leg/2s/bills/sb1001p.htm

 Information about Section 504 Qualifications- http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/504faq.html

 Gayle Plato M.Ed., served as an ADA Section 504 Plan Coordinator, and IEP team member at a number of elementary and middle schools in Arizona and Washington.


Comments

  1. Pricinct Committeeman says

    Unfortunately, this program will not help enough children. It has a $5 million cap.

    And, why are foster children comparable to special ed students who educational needs are not being met?

    Further, since you are such a supporter, why aren’t these programs available for my gifted child? Or, for the inner-city students? Or, for the athleticly gifted? Or, for the plain old, run-of-the-mill recess oriented students?

    Special interests are criticized by the link you provided. Aren’t the very people aided by this bill “speical interests”, too?

    Yeah, it’s great to have school choice. As long as you’re tha parent being handed the choices.

  2. HI PC- You know no law like this, school choice or vouchers, they are never perfect. But, true gifted determination IS under special education by pure definition. I am just thinking out loud, but I am wondering if you CAN discuss this with the a charter or private school’s director. Or, that’s a great idea for future expansion. I see the law as a beginning, and competition with parental choice opens avenues.
    Remember too, by the nature of being gifted, there are lots of scholarships available for enrichment that other SP ED. doesn’t qualify.
    All the best!

  3. Pricinct Committeeman says

    I love it. No law is perfect.

    Perfect response.

    So, those of us with “average” kids, too, will jsut have to wait until things improve in the “perfection” of the law for them. What, in say twelve years?

    You just ignore the clear unfairness of the program as passed. You know, and I know, it was designed ONLY for the kids already on the program. All the other kids can just go to *#@*.

    Smells like special interests win again at the Legislature.

  4. PC

    My brother who is autistic tried going to public schools for a few years but having an aid and getting into the higher grades where you start to picked on was to much for him. My parents enrolled him in a private school for kids with autism and aspergers where tuition was over $10k. The cost has taken a huge toll on my family over the past couple of years. My family was elated when they got a letter from the school saying if this was passed that it was going benfit them in some way.

    Public school is not an option for my brother, you’re gifted child or average child does not need a scholarship to be able to get an education, so do not complain about this law especially when it is capped at $5million this is nothing in the grand scheme of things.

  5. Parent X says

    There are so many problems with “Lexie’s Law”, I don’t even know where to begin.

    Here’s a few of the most glaring issues…

    1. We are facing a $4 billion dollar budget deficit this year. Our legislators have been proudly standing by the ‘no tax’ pledge and trying hard ‘not to appear gleeful’ (Rep. Kirk Adams) as they cut deeply into state programs which affect the over 1.3 million children in our state. Anyone who works in public schools or the social service agencies that provide assistance to the majority of foster children and people with special needs in this state will tell you that the special-session rally in the name of ‘the children’ rings very hollow.

    2. This is all about ideology – the courts ruled vouchers were unconstitutional so the majority leaders in our state government who supported the voucher program ground everything else to a halt so they could skirt the ruling.

    3. Even if all of that still sits fine with you, if you are truly a fiscal conservative there is NO way you still should have supported this shameless financial shuffle. Take a look at the Arizona Department of Revenue report detailing the finances of our existing corporate tax credit School Tuition Organizations (STOs). These STOS were set up to funnel tax dollars from the corporations to private school tuition ‘scholarships’. Two things to note here:

    –The STOs can – and do – skim 10% of our tax money straight off the top for ‘administrative expenses’. Other tax credit options don’t utilize a middleman to handle the money. That 10% equates to about $1.4 million in tax money this year (or roughly 500 $2,800 tuition grants for needy children).

    –Here’s the biggest issue: We already have a law that allows corporations to donate up to $14.4 MILLION this year to STOs for private school tuition. (Note to STO novices: this is in addition to the law which allows for private tax credits of up to $1,000/family.)

    The most recent Arizona Department of Revenue report shows that corporate tax credit STOs took in over $14.2 million but only awarded $4.6 million in tuition payments. That, my fiscal watchdog friends, leaves a total of $9.6 MILLION in our tax money just sitting around in private accounts.

    As a parent, my hackles bristle when special interest groups (in this case, the members of the legislature with financial stakes in private STOs) use “the children” as a shield to distract people from the truth.

    Before the knee-jerk responses commence, please at least take the time to check out the STO corporate tax credit revenue reports for yourselves: http://www.azdor.gov/ResearchStats/2007%20corporate%20school_credit%20report.pdf

  6. Parent X,

    You are this upset over $5 million?? Where were you when Bush was spending 230k on his round trip flights to Crawford which he did 77 times by the way. Which means just flying Airforce one during his presidency to Crawford he spent over $17,710,000… Now I dont really care about this AT ALL

    What I am trying to show you is 5 million is nothing in the big picture. You can have your principles but you need to pick your battles better…

  7. Johnny, I hear what you are saying… but legislators introducing legislation that benefits their personal business in the guise of helping the needy is deplorable.

    Here’s a link that explains Steve Yarbrough’s STO scam pretty well.

    http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/ethics-101/Content?oid=1193245

    The public should be outraged that Yarbrough is bilking the taxpayers by using the sad story of 400 foster kids.

  8. When we’ve a weak economy, we WANT to offer tax breaks to business, and the private sector. I think of Ireland’s savvy business cuts, often noted by John McCain during his presidential bid. We need the support and we see tenfold support by offering smart incentives.
    Tax Cuts, tax breaks, and tax limits stimulate true growth. This type of law can also get public programming some relief.

  9. Parent X says

    Gayle –

    Oh my. Please take a moment to read up on Ireland’s tax model before using their ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy as a comparison to ANYTHING that Arizona is doing.

    Arizona’s private school tuition tax credits would be laughed straight out of the Irish Dail. They did two things that really kicked off their economy back in the early 1990s…they placed a HUGE emphasis on education (especially science and technology) and they greatly simplified their corporate tax code.

    Every single student in Ireland is guaranteed a free higher education. Almost without exception, you would never, EVER hear a Irish politician try to diminish public education, suggest any cuts in education services or sneer at the idea of funding new schools as the population grew. They did the opposite – the Irish invested heavily in improving & expanding their schools. Businesses were drawn to Ireland in part because of their dynamic investment and dedication to education…more than 60% of their students move on to higher ed and they have a higher literacy rate than we do.

    The Irish also stopped playing games with their corporate tax code. They offer a flat tax of 12.5% for all trade and 25% for all passive business income. There aren’t a million new loopholes a year like we see here in Arizona. You also have to remember that our ‘tax credits’ aren’t saving our Arizona companies any money…they are simply diverting the taxes due from our general fund to another agency. That kind of fiscal shell game wouldn’t fly in Ireland anymore.

    It’s also worth mentioning that the Irish citizens do pay for all that universal public education. There is a 21.5% sales tax (VAT)on pretty much everything and they pay between 20-42% income tax. Nothing comes for free.

  10. Parent X says

    Johnny –

    The fact that you are brushing off ‘only five million dollars” as nonconsequential just serves to highlight the reason why Arizona is in such a mess.

    We have the government we deserve.

    (Plus – please refer to the AZ Dept of Revenue link provided. Private school tax credits totalled somewhere around $65 million/year before ‘Lexi’s law’ added another $5 million to the pot. That may still be chump change to you, but it would fund a school district serving 5,000 students for a couple of years.)

  11. Parent X

    No matter how you slice it 5 million of a budget that is over 8 billion is nonconsequential! You are talking about less than .1 of 1 percent of the budget. You need to learn to pick your battles, arguing over every little bit like that only makes people in the party look ridiculous.

  12. Conservative does not mean Republican says

    Parent X

    Are you saying we should consider universal higher education??? There are many countries (I lived in one) that provide “free” higher education, but their education system is clearly behind that of the U.S. I don’t understand why individuals would be forced to pay for someone else’s higher education when many people don’t use the system? The service sector is chalk-full of people that don’t have degrees? Why should they pay for universal higher education for their neighbor?

    And one other thing…competition is a key element to improving our schools and keeping a check on government. Otherwise, we would have purely government run schools and ensure a monopoly over the minds of our children. Freeing up money so that people can have a choice in where to educate their kids is not a bad thing.

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