Today is the deadline for bills that would expand the Education Services Account (ESA) for students with special needs to clear committee if they are to make it to the floor for a vote.

Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn have spoken in favor of expanding the ESA scholarship, which would allow for $6,500 to benefit more children in Mississippi.

Reeves and Gunn spoke in favor of the legislation at the School Choice Rally on the steps of the Capitol on January 22nd.

Originally, the bill allowed for 500 more students to be added to the program each year. Currently, there are 250 on the waitlist, and just over 400 utilizing the ESA.

Leah Ferretti is the mother of three dyslexic children, and talks about what the lack of and ESA means for her children.

School choice advocate Empower Mississippi has conducted a campaign called “Waitlisted” that describes what parents who are on the ESA waiting list have had to endure while they wait and hope for options that may never come.

Stacey Ware told Empower Mississippi about their experience with two sons with autism. Both have had to attend private school to get the therapies they need. Annual tuition for the boys combined reaches over $24,000.

“We’ve been through three rounds of the lottery,” said Stacy, “and have not received an ESA.  Mississippi really needs a complete overhaul when it comes to special education and assistance for special needs families.”

The ESA allows for students with special needs to take the scholarship money and use it to either enhance their education at their current public school, transfer to another public school, or go to a private school that has what would best suit their needs.