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Overhaul Proposed for Special Needs Scholarships

JACKSON, MS (Ben Caxton) — Mississippi’s state Senate is proposing a significant overhaul of a program that provides state money for special education students to attend private schools. Parents of children with special education needs can apply for scholarship accounts that provide $6500. The program was created in 2015 by Republicans who argued that students with specialized learning needs should be able to seek alternatives to public schools. It will expire after this school year unless lawmakers agree to extend it. Earlier this month the Senate passed Senate Bill 2954 which would extend the program for four years but also make it more restrictive. Participating schools would have to certify to the state department of education that they provide services addressing a student’s particular needs. Public schools would also be reimbursed for any special education services they provide. About half the students in the program have come from school districts in Rankin, Madison, DeSoto, Jackson and Hinds Counties. The bill now awaits action by the House.

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