COVINGTON, Ga. - Senate Bill 10 as signed into law on May 18, 2007, created the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program. The GSNS allows eligible special needs students to transfer to another public school, public school district, state school or authorized participating private school.
In order for a student to be eligible for this scholarship, the parent/guardian must be a current Georgia resident and must have resided in the state for at least one year. In addition, the student must have spent the entire immediate prior year in attendance at a Georgia public school in grades K-12. The child must meet Georgia eligibility criteria for one or more disability areas and must also have an Individual Education Program written by the school in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations.
“Parents of students who qualify have options available,” Brooke Ramsey, Newton County School System director of special education, said. “The law allows parents to complete the application to request a transfer to another public school within their district. Also, parents have the option of contacting another public school district outside their district about transfers, a state school for the blind or deaf, or a private school authorized to participate in the GSNS Program.” Ramsey added that, “parents are responsible for providing transportation for students participating in the GSNS Program.”
Once a student qualifies for the GSNS Program, parents do not need to re-apply unless the student is changing levels or schools (elementary to middle, middle to high). If a student is changing schools, the parent must reapply for the GSNS Program.
Public school choice options
According to Ramsey, parents can request a transfer to another public school within the school system as long as there is available space at that school and the school has a program with the services agreed to in the student’s existing IEP (Grades 1 – 12). If the parent chooses this option the parent is responsible for transportation to the school.
NCSS will make a decision regarding a parental request to transfer a special needs student based on two criteria:
Class size and school capacity, which is defined by the class-size capacity by grade and subject, based on state law (160-5-1-08), and
The school’s ability to provide the services identified in the student’s IEP.
Home-schooled students, students enrolled in the Department of Juvenile Justice, and students in residential facilities are not eligible. In addition, NCSS is not accepting requests for the 2018-2019 school year from parents/students who live outside of Newton County.
Parents who wish to have their special needs student transferred to another school in the district for the 2019-2020 fall semester should submit their application by July 1. Parents who wish to request a transfer for the spring semester of the 2019-2020 school year have until Dec. 2 to submit the request. Parents may obtain forms on the NCSS website, www.newtoncountyschools.org, and submit the completed forms to the NCSS Special Education Department.
In addition to transfer requests within NCSS, parents of special needs students may also contact another school system in the State of Georgia to request a transfer to a school in their system if there is available space and the system and school has a program with the services agreed to in the student’s existing IEP. The other school system must agree to accept the student. If the parent chooses this option and the school system accepts the child, the parent is responsible for transportation. For the 2019-2020 school year, NCSSis not accepting requests from parents/students who live outside of Newton County.
A third public school choice option available for parents of special needs students is a transfer to one of the state schools for the deaf and/or blind operated by the State Board of Education; however, acceptance into a state school is dependent on that setting being appropriate for the student’s needs. If the parent chooses this option, the parent is responsible for transportation to the state school. Parents should visit the Georgia Department of Education website at http://public.doe.k12.ga.us/ for more information about transferring to a State School.
Information and forms for public school choice are posted on the Newton County website, www.newtoncountyschools.org, or you can call the Special Education Department at (770) 787-1330.
Private school choice option
Additionally, parents of special needs students may apply for a Georgia Special Needs Scholarship through the Georgia Department of Education and request a transfer to a private school in Georgia. These scholarships provide funding that can be used to offset tuition costs at participating private schools in the state.
For more information on the Private School Choice Georgia Special Needs Scholarship and the parent application process, parents should visit the Georgia Department of Education’s website at http://public.doe.k12.ga.us/.