Sen. Krawiec Calls for Funding Waitlists for Programs to Assist Working Families

School Closures, Virtual Schools Leave Families, Children with Disabilities Languishing

Raleigh, N.C. — COVID-19-related school closures and shifts to virtual learning have left students with exceptional needs languishing. While some school districts have dedicated in-person learning hours for students with exceptional needs, others have working families scrambling to find workable options that fit their child’s unique needs.

For the Stephenson family in Forsyth County, that means their 11-year-old son, Matthew, isn’t getting the instruction or support he needs. Matthew, a fifth-grader in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district has autism. He was originally given the option of attending a program that would give him a few hours of in-person instruction a week, but, according to the Stephensons, WS/FCS pulled the plug on that program before it even started.

Matthew is falling behind with virtual learning and regressing, his parents said. Now, after months at home, the Stephensons and other working families are running out of options for their children with exceptional needs.

The Stephenson family looked into scholarship and grant programs, and they’ve asked for help to move Matthew to a different school district or have a teacher come into their home to help. None of those options were available.

The Stephenson family felt isolated and reached out to Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) to try and find a solution.

“I honestly don’t feel that the schools are meeting my child’s needs at all,” Ana Zagal, Matthew’s mother, told Sen. Krawiec. “Without that support, we are truly lost.”

In an effort to provide relief to families of children with special needs, Sen. Krawiec is urging the legislature to fund the current waitlist for both the Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities Program and the Education Savings Account Program. The $6.5 million in funding would eliminate the current waitlists for the two programs — providing nearly 2,500 families with the resources to meet their child’s needs.

“It is unconscionable that school districts aren’t providing students with special needs the support they’re promised. We’ve all had to make sacrifices because of this pandemic, but we should not be sacrificing children’s futures,” Sen. Krawiec said. “The Stephenson family has been working tirelessly since March to advocate on their son’s behalf so he can get the education he deserves. The schools have put up roadblocks at every turn. I call on my colleagues at the General Assembly to help hardworking families of children with exceptional needs like the Stephensons and eliminate the waitlists for these programs.”

The Children with Disabilities Program provides $4,000 a semester and the Educational Savings Account Program provides $9,000 per year. Both programs can be used for things like tuition, tutoring, and additional curriculum.

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