Legislation meant to help the families of children with autism and other disorders has reached the Governor’s desk, in the eighth year it has been offered.
Representative Dwight Scharnhorst (R-St. Louis) named Bryce’s Law for his grandson, who died in 2007 of complications related to autism and epilepsy. It would create a grant program that parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, Angelman syndrome or cerebral palsy could apply for to help cover the cost of specialized educations that meet their unique needs.
“It’s somewhat of a mandate to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to seek and secure federal and state, and I will be seeking on my own private foundation money, to form a pool of money for parents who decide they want to move these children out of a public school and put them in the institutions that could probably best suit improving their quality of life as well as their family.”
The bill had met resistance in earlier versions because it would have created a tax credit program for those parents, which opponents had likened to school vouchers. Scharnhorst says converting it to a grant program removed any impact it would have on state funding for public schools. He says prior to this year, the proposal had not received a positive vote in a legislative chamber.
Scharnhorst says the program would only provide one piece of the puzzle to those parents, who might have to make difficult decisions include relocating to get their children into such a program.
“Some parents are going to have to go to a lot of trouble to make this happen, but I know these kind of parents will do whatever it takes to help their child.”
House Speaker Tim Jones says the passage of Bryce’s Law is a milestone.
“Republicans have always stood for helping the truly needy. Young children with autism, I can’t think of more deserving folks. More options, more hope for those parents who struggle every day.”
The language was passed as part of a larger education bill, SB 17, that also includes provisions that would also create advisory councils to consider rules and policies regarding the education of gifted and talented children and to consider management of career and technical education and would allow the use of religious books in elective literature and history courses in public schools.
The bill is now awaiting action by Governor Jay Nixon.
AUDIO: Dwight Scharnhorst speaks about Bryce’s Law prior to its passage out of the House, 1:57