§18-31-9. Administration of Hope Scholarship accounts.
(a) In addition to the duties, obligations, and authority stated in this section and in other parts of this article, the board has the following duties, obligations, and authority with respect to the administration of Hope Scholarship accounts:
(1) To maintain an updated list of participating schools and shall ensure that the list is publicly available through various sources, including the internet;
(2) To provide parents with a written explanation of the allowable uses of Hope Scholarship funds, the responsibilities of parents, the duties of the board and the role of any private financial management firms or other private organizations that the board may contract with to administer the Hope Scholarship Program or any aspect of the program; and
(3) To ensure that parents of students with a disability receive notice that participation in the Hope Scholarship Program is a parental placement under 20 U.S.C. § 1412 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) along with an explanation of the rights that parentally placed students possess under (IDEA) and any applicable state laws and regulations.
(b) The board may contract with private organizations to administer the Hope Scholarship Program. This includes, but is not limited to, private financial management firms to manage Hope Scholarship accounts.
(c) The board shall implement, or contract with a private organization to implement, a commercially viable, cost effective, and parent-friendly system for payment for services from Hope Scholarship accounts to participating schools or education service providers, including, but not limited to, the use of debit cards or other electronic or online fund transfers: Provided, That a Hope Scholarship account may not be reduced for debit card or electronic payment fees.
(d) The board shall also seek to implement a commercially viable, cost-effective, and parent-friendly system for publicly rating, reviewing, and sharing information about participating schools and education service providers, ideally as part of the same system that facilitates the electronic or online funds transfers so as to create a one-stop-shop for parents and Hope Scholarship students.
(e) If an education service provider requires partial payment of tuition or fees prior to the start of the academic year to reserve space for a Hope Scholarship student admitted to the education service provider, such partial payment may be paid prior to the start of the school year in which the Hope Scholarship is awarded, and deducted in an equitable manner from subsequent Hope Scholarship deposits to ensure adequate funds remain available throughout the school year; but if a Hope Scholarship student decides not to use the education service provider, the partial reservation payment must be returned to the board by such education service provider and credited to the student’s Hope Scholarship account.
(f) The board may accept gifts and grants from any source to cover administrative costs, to inform the public about the Hope Scholarship Program, or to provide additional funding for Hope Scholarship Accounts.
(g) The board may propose legislative rules for legislative approval pursuant to §29A-3-1 et seq. of this code, including emergency rules, if necessary, to meet timelines set forth in this article, that are not inconsistent with this article and that are necessary for the administration of this article, including:
(1) Establishing or contracting for the establishment of a fraud reporting system;
(2) Policies that require a surety bond for education service providers receiving more than $100,000 in Hope Scholarship funds;
(3) Procedures for refunding payments from education service providers back to Hope Scholarship accounts; and
(4) Procedures for entering into reciprocal agreements with other state education savings account agencies or entities, whether public or private, to recognize and allow education service providers approved in other states to receive payments from Hope Scholarship accounts under this article.
(h) The rules or policies adopted by the board should avoid excessive bureaucracy and overly prescriptive mandates and instead shall focus on encouraging participation in the program and encouraging education service providers to provide parents and Hope Scholarship students with a broad array of educational options.