Since 2010, Oklahoma has offered the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program to children with special needs, such as autism. The program provides state funds that can be used to pay for a private school designed to meet those students’ needs. It’s been highly successful and allowed creation of an autism-centric private school.
Senate Bill 981, by Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, would have slightly expanded the program to include any “student who has received a mental health or substance abuse disorder diagnosis from a licensed mental health professional and is enrolling in a school with treatment programming for the diagnosis” and students “classified as homeless” under federal law who are “enrolling in a school with programming specifically designated for homeless students.”
This is a common-sense approach to helping children facing severe circumstances. Yet opponents acted as though the sky was falling. One bit of commentary even equated mentally ill children with left-handed students, as though the needs of the former are indistinguishable from the latter.
Those who doubt homeless children could benefit from the Henry scholarship program need look no further than Positive Tomorrows, an existing private school for homeless children. Along with standard educational services, Positive Tomorrows provides children with clothes, shoes, hygiene products, after-school programs and even individual birthday parties.