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Siblings of students with disabilities eligible for scholarship accounts under amended bill

A dark blue shield outlined in gold displays the words Indiana Education Scholarship Account.
Courtesy of the Indiana treasurer's office
Amendments to a work-based learning bill make changes to the state's Career Scholarship Account and Education Savings Account programs.

A Senate committee amended a bill on Wednesday that changes how two of the state’s scholarship account programs are administered and who is eligible for them.

The bill would now allow the siblings of students with disabilities to receive funding from the state’s Education Scholarship Account program, among other changes.

The ESA program is currently reserved for students with disabilities, but a recent amendment to House Bill 1001 would open it to eligible siblings of those students.

Sen. Brian Buchanan (R-Lebanon) said it will make the application process easier for families.

“If a parent has three kids and one of them qualifies for the program, the other two would be qualified as well,” he said.

Lawmakers also changed a financial reporting threshold for organizations that provide services to students with disabilities.

READ MORE: House passes work-based learning, education funding bill despite some lingering concerns

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Currently, if an organization is expected to receive more than $50,000 from the ESA program, the Indiana treasurer of the state is required to review the organization’s assets.

Lawmakers voted to raise that threshold to $100,000. Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond) said it will reduce the burden on the treasurer’s office until a better auditing system is developed.

“We simply moved it up to $100,000 because it costs the treasurer’s office a great deal of administrative costs and, as they look at the $50,000, it’s such a low threshold,” he said.

However, some Senate Democrats expressed concern the amendment could reduce transparency and oversight into the program.

The bill also changes how funds from Career Scholarship Accounts can be used. The CSA program allows 10th, 11th and 12th graders to use state funding to pursue internships, apprenticeships, certificates, credentials and other postsecondary options.

The original bill would have let students use CSA funds to pay for training to get a driver’s license, but the committee removed that language.

It was replaced by more broad language that allows students to use CSA money for transportation if the total cost is less than $625, a CSA participating organization provides a matching amount for transportation costs, or student’s family can prove hardship.

The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Kirsten is our education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.

Kirsten the Indiana Public Broadcasting education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.