Senate passes measures to assist students with IEPs


STATE HOUSE – The Senate has approved two bills sponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Murray to help the families of students with individualized learning plans (IEPs).

The legislation, which now goes to the House, will help families of special education students navigate challenges in getting their student’s educational needs met at school, and ensure their families are aware of tax-free investment accounts available to help fund support services for their student in adulthood

The first bill (2024-S 2844), which the Senate approved Thursday, creates an ombud office for special education, independent of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, to ensure school districts throughout the state meet the standards required to comply with individualized education programs for students with disabilities.

The office, modeled after the Office of the Child Advocate, would provide parents and teachers a place to bring up their concerns when they believe their child is not being provided the special education services to which they are entitled. It would also collect data about possible violations and would have investigative powers for both districts and state Department of Education. 

“Every child in need of special education is unique. For families, navigating the education system can be frustrating and challenging. There are often many questions about what educational services are available and what a district is required to provide. Having a special education ombud would provide families, students and teachers a valuable, well-informed resource that can work to ensure children are getting the services to which they are entitled and which they deserve,” said Senator Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield).

The other bill (2024-S 2741), which Senator Murray introduced on behalf of General Treasurer James A. Diossa, would require school districts to provide informational material about the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account program at students’ annual IEP meeting, beginning with the 2024-2025 school year.

ABLE accounts are federally recognized investment accounts similar to 529 college savings programs for individuals with disabilities. Family members and friends can deposit money into the accounts to be invested on the individual’s behalf. When the child reaches adulthood, funds can be used to offset qualified expenses related to education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health prevention and wellness, financial management services and more. ABLE accounts do not qualify as assets for determining income eligibility for state or local assistance programs, such as Medicaid.

“Living with a disability or caring for one with a disability can be really expensive. ABLE accounts permit individuals with disabilities to accrue savings to cover disability-related expenses without sacrificing their eligibility for other public benefits,” said Senator Murray.

For more information about ABLE accounts, visit

Both bills now go to the House, which has approved a companion bill for the ABLE legislation (2024-H 7612) sponsored by Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown).