• Gov. Phil Bryant Signs Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act into Law

    Photograph of Bill SigningJACKSON—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). Today, he signed the measure into law.

    The graduation rate for students with special needs in Mississippi public schools is 22.5 percent. The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act establishes a pilot program to provide special needs students with scholarships to pay for educational expenses

    “Today is an important day for families in Mississippi,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “When only 22.5 percent of special needs students graduate high school, something is terribly wrong. Now, with this bill, we will extend these children a better opportunity to succeed and will give their families the power to make the educational choices that they deem best. I thank Sen. Nancy Collins, Rep. Carolyn Crawford, the Legislature and other supporters of the bill for their work on this effort.”

    The bill was sponsored by Sen. Nancy Collins. and Rep. Carolyn Crawford.

    The Foundation for Excellence in Education, formerly headed by Gov. Jeb Bush, also supported the bill.

    “Today, Mississippi took bold action to expand parental choice and expand opportunities for students with special needs,” Gov. Jeb Bush said. “Thanks to the strong leadership of Governor Bryant and state legislators, and the passionate advocacy of parents across the state, Mississippi will be a national leader in helping students with unique learning abilities achieve their God-given potential.”

    The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act 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.


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