SB 130 Choice for Autistic Kids Clears One Hurdle, House Education Awaits

Yesterday I brought news of a troubling development at the State Capitol. Today, I decided to shift to the positive — because hope for autistic children in Colorado is just a bit brighter. School choice champion Senator Nancy Spence‘s Senate Bill 130 passed one house of the state legislature, reports Colorado Senate News:

Spence, a leading statehouse voice for school reform, faced months-long opposition from charter school opponents, who argued that the plan would take money away from public schools and provide an unnecessary service to children with autism. Spence maintained that the bill isn’t about taking on the public-education bureaucracy or taking funding from public schools; it’s about providing autistic children with a school that specifically serves their unique needs, she said.

“We have a responsibility to do more for families struggling to address the needs of their autistic kids,” Spence said. “Children suffering from this disorder are just one small subsection of our society that aren’t being adequately served by our public schools.”

SB 130 originally was introduced to provide vouchers to families with autistic children so they could select a public or private school of their choice. The approved bill is a compromise that would create a specially-designed charter school tailored to autistic students. While not ideal, SB 130 is clearly a positive step of educational opportunity for a group of kids, many of whose needs are too often overlooked in their traditional school setting.

Some opponents argued that it isn’t fair to provide this kind of choice to students with one type of disability when many others also have special needs. To that I say: Let’s pass school choice bills for all the different groups. Or better yet, let’s make school choice universal and get the bureaucracy out of the way!

Meanwhile, SB 130 isn’t in the clear yet. It will have to go through a last-minute hearing in the House Education Committee. This is the group that double super-killed school spending transparency and stripped away the promising reform ideas in the School Finance Act.

Keep your fingers crossed.