Jeff Amy
Jeff Amy covers Georgia politics and government.
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Laws will widen private school aid, let home-schoolers play

May 6, 2021 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — More Georgia special education students would be eligible for subsidies to attend private schools and home-schooled students could play on their local public school team under laws that Gov. Brian Kemp signed Thursday.

The Republican governor signed the bills into law at a ceremony aimed at Christian conservatives, also signing several other bills in Atlanta.

Georgia’s existing special needs scholarship program grants money to about 5,000 students who have individualized education plans and have left public schools. Senate Bill 47 expands eligibility to public school students who have accommodation plans under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act. Students with 504 plans may be performing on grade level but need some kind of help.

Supporters say public schools aren’t a good fit for every child and that Georgia should help pay for specialized learning environments for students with disabilities.

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“Parents and students, children, will be able to gain access to the services and to the educational track that will best fit their needs and their disabilities,” Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a top supporter, said at the ceremony.

Opponents of the bill said they don’t want to drain more money from public education to send to private schools. They also say that because there’s no academic evaluation of the current program, it’s unclear whether it works.

Senate Bill 42 lets students in grades 6-12 take part in sports or other extracurricular activities such as band, drama or school clubs when they take at least one online course facilitated by the local public school system.

More than 25 states allow home-schooled students to participate in sports and activities. Such laws are typically called Tim Tebow bills, named for the University of Florida football star who was a home-schooler when he played football for a Florida public high school.

Georgia schools had resisted such a plan, citing concerns about costs, the ability to discipline someone who’s not a student and taking places away from other students. But the Georgia High School Association, which oversees athletic and extracurricular competition, endorsed the bill. That’s because schools will now be able to require students to meet their code of conduct.

The Georgia bill is named for Dexter Mosley, a Dunwoody resident and former Auburn University football player who died in 2019 at age 51, leaving a wife and six children. His widow, Chenelle Mosley, said after Kemp signed the law that “I know he’s up in heaven, elated.” She said she hoped the measure would reduce the divide between home-schooled students and traditional public school students.

“I think our kids will be able to influence each other in a good way and we won’t be as separated like we have been,” Mosley said.

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