Group criticizes MDE’s special ed voucher roll-out

Empower Mississippi says MDE’s process for parents of special needs students to apply for public funds to pay for private schools and services is “extremely unfriendly to parents,” and doesn’t appear to follow the new law, passed by the Legislature this year.

Senate Bill 2695, the Equal Opportunity for Students With Special Needs Act, starts a pilot program for vouchers, or “educational savings accounts” for parents to remove their children from public schools and use private schools and services. For the 2015-’16 school year, 435 vouchers will be available, providing up to $6,500 per student, with MDE reimbursing parents quarterly. The program would serve only a fraction of the state’s thousands of special needs students, but advocates in the Legislature said it’s a needed start to give parents options because many public schools are failing to provide adequate special needs services.

MDE announced details of the application process on Monday. On Tuesday, Empower Mississippi sent out a release saying it has major concerns with application process.