(Originally published by ReimagineEdOnline.)
Families of special-needs learners across Nevada recently received notification that they have received grant awards under what may be the Silver State’s most family-friendly education program to date.
The Transforming Opportunities for Toddlers and Students (TOTS) program provides special needs learners under the age of 18, who “faced disparate impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic impacts,” with $5,000 grants, which must be used for educational purposes, broadly defined.
Photo: : New Horizons Academy in Las Vegas offers special needs students many opportunities for project-based learning, encouraging them to work in small groups to independently create projects they display during special assemblies, courtesy of ReimagineEdOnline.
Hiring tutors (including in microschools, learning pods and services available through diverse education providers), assistive technology, purchasing educational services from a private school, or even transportation for schooling all fall within the allowable uses for grant funds.
The program is administered by the Nevada State Treasurer, and grants will be distributed through the ABLE savings account program, via its virtual wallet mechanism. This distribution vehicle is an important component of the TOTS program, ensuring that these grants do not compromise participating families’ eligibility for other programs, and presents a useful model for other state school choice-eligible funds for special needs learners.
The TOTS program came into being in the closing days of the 2021 legislative session and was a priority for longtime school choice champion Sen. Scott Hammond in negotiations to finalize a budget package that included new taxes on the mining industry.
Noted Hammond: “The pandemic made it difficult for all families to keep their children’s learning on track, and especially for families with disabilities.”