Bill to Provide Help to Special Needs Students Heads to Governor
During his January 2015 State of the State Address, Gov. Phil Bryant called on the Mississippi Legislature to pass the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act (Senate Bill 2695), a measure that creates a pilot program to provide special needs students with scholarships to pay for educational expenses. The Mississippi Senate today concurred with the Mississippi House to send the bill to Gov. Bryant for signature.
The graduation rate for students with special needs in Mississippi public schools is 22.5 percent. The graduation rate for students without special needs is 74.5 percent.
“Today is a good day for parents in Mississippi,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “Special needs students deserve the opportunity to succeed, and this bill gives parents the power to provide additional resources to help their children obtain the education and support they need. I thank the Legislature for sending me this bill.”
The measure will provide a $6,500 scholarship to participating students. The funds can be used for expenses like educational therapies, tutoring and tuition at a private school when the public school in which the student is enrolled is not meeting his or her needs.
Schools, tutors and other educational service providers that receive scholarship funds must meet appropriate licensing and accreditation standards.
The program is open to 500 public school students beginning in the 2015-2016 school year. To qualify, students must have had an active Individualized Education Program within 18 months from the date of enrollment in the pilot. The first 250 slots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. The remaining 250 slots will be filled by a lottery.
Excerpt from Governor Bryant’s 2015 State of the State Address, delivered to the Mississippi Legislature on Jan. 21, 2015
“This year, we must also do all in our power to help children with special needs. The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act will empower parents with educational choice to get their children the services they need. When only 22.5 percent of special needs children graduate from high school, something is terribly wrong. I call on you to send this bill to my desk. Mississippi children with special needs, and their parents, deserve nothing less.”
Gov. Phil Bryant Press Release