March 24, 2015
Excel National Commends Mississippi Legislature for Making
Education Options for Students with Special Needs a Top Priority
Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, the Mississippi Senate gave final approval to The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act (SB 2695). A companion bill with similar language already passed the Mississippi House of Representatives. This family-centered reform is now headed to Governor Phil Bryant’s desk for signature. Excellence in Education National (@Excel_National) Executive Director, Patricia Levesque, issued the following statement in support of the legislation.
“All students should be afforded every opportunity possible to achieve success in school and life, and parents should be the key decision makers. The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act recognizes this by allowing parents to customize individual education and therapy plans for their children with special needs.
“In 1997, 17 percent of Mississippi’s students with special needs graduated from high school. Today, only 23 percent of these students graduate. Amazingly, there are those who argue against changing a system of education that has made just six percentage points of progress in two decades for their most vulnerable students. Thankfully, the Mississippi Legislature listened to the parents of students with special needs, overcoming the status quo and empowering parents with access to educational options that best suit the needs of their children.
“We are grateful for the tireless work of Senator Nancy Collins, Representative Carolyn Crawford, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn and Education Committee Chairs Senator Gray Tollison and Representative John Moore for their leadership and commitment over the past 18 months.
“We are especially thankful for Governor Bryant, who steadfastly supported these scholarships for students. We look forward to his signature on the bill in the coming days.”
Mississippi Lt. Governor Tate Reeves said, “Today, Mississippi became the third state in the nation to empower the parents of students with special needs, providing them with a broad array of educational choices. For two years, we fought to give these students an opportunity at an education that best fits their needs. I congratulate the parents and students who worked so hard to pass this important next step in Mississippi’s education reform efforts.”
Facts about SB 2695, The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act:
- This is a pilot program open to 500 students in year one and 500 new students each year after.
- Students with an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) within the past 18 months will be eligible to apply for an Education Scholarship Account (ESA).
- Each account will be funded at approximately $6,500 per child per year and could be spent on approved educational expenses like private school tuition, educational therapy and tutoring.
- Parents will sign a compliance agreement for proper use of funds and each account will be audited.
- Participating private schools must be accredited; tutors and therapists must be licensed or certified.
Background on Education Scholarship Accounts:
- Education scholarship accounts (also commonly referred to as education savings accounts or ESAs) are an innovative way to bring customization to K-12 education.
- ESAs allow parents are able to direct their child’s funding to the schools, courses, programs and services of their choice.
- ESAs create a personal approach to education, where the ultimate goal is maximizing each child’s natural learning abilities.
For more information visit www.ExcelNational.org.