OKLAHOMA CITY (March 27, 2012) – State Rep. Jason Nelson said a Tulsa judge’s ruling against a law providing scholarships to special-needs students is just “one battle in the overall fight to help special-needs children” and vowed to continue advocating for families in need. Judge Rebecca Nightingale made the ruling today.
“I will keep fighting for the families and fighting to uphold this very necessary law,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “I support an appeal to the Supreme Court and a motion for a stay of the judge’s ruling pending an appeal. The strong reason we needed this law in the first place still stands – to help families of special-needs students who are not being served by public schools.”
Nelson noted the judge’s ruling could have far-reaching consequences for Oklahomans.
“The judge’s ruling is baffling and will likely impact many state programs affecting everything from preschool to Medicaid,” Nelson said. “The judge ruled on the merits without comment, perhaps because her decision is indefensible.”
The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act allows students with a disability on an individualized education program (IEP) to receive state-funded scholarships to attend private school. The scholarships are funded with money already designated for the child’s education.
In response, the Jenks and Union school districts sued some of the parents of children with special needs who obtained the scholarships provided by the law.
Under the judge’s ruling, Nelson noted that it is now possible for Medicaid patients to be sued for being treated at a Catholic hospital.
“This is a horrible precedent,” Nelson said. “It’s like suing grandma for using Medicare. I will keep fighting to defend parents’ rights to do what is best for their children. This is the standard everywhere else in state government. This ruling now calls into question other critical programs in health care, foster care, prison ministries, preschool and higher education tuition grants.”
Nelson praised the parents of special-needs students for staying strong.
“These parents have displayed great courage while going through an unprecedented legal assault by two government school districts,” Nelson said. “They have not backed down, and neither will I.”
Nelson thanked the Becket Fund for coming to the aid of the parents of special-needs children, as well as Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who defended the law, and Bob Latham, local council for the School Choice Coalition. He also thanked state Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid), who co-authored the law, and all legislative colleagues “who supported these parents.”
“Most of all, I want to thank former Governor Brad Henry and his family for supporting the program and allowing the law to be named for Lindsey,” Nelson said.