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Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant Signs Bills Creating New School Funding Accounts for Students with Special Needs

April 17, 2015

Jackson—Today Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed SB 2695 into law, the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act.

This new law will create state-funded accounts of $6,500 that families of special needs students can use to pay for educational therapies, tutoring, online curriculum and even private school tuition. Five hundred students per year will be allowed to sign up for an Education Scholarship Account.

“Children with special needs across Mississippi—children that families and policymakers and the media in that state have known for years were falling through the cracks—now will have better educational opportunities,” said Jonathan Butcher, the education policy director at the Goldwater Institute. “Gov. Phil Bryant’s signature today gives these children the chance at a brighter future.”

Mississippi becomes the third state in the country to offer these unique accounts to families with special needs students. The law was first put into place in Arizona five years ago and was adopted last year in Florida. Arizona’s program is open to students with special needs, students in failing schools, and from active duty military or foster care families. Last month lawmakers passed an expansion of the program to include all students living on Native American reservations. About 1,500 students in Arizona are using the program this school year. About 1,800 special needs students are using Florida’s program.

The Goldwater Institute proposed the idea of a state-funded bank account for K-12 education expenses almost a decade ago, and has continued to research, develop and refine the idea and legislative language. The Institute regularly hosts delegations of state lawmakers so they can learn about these “education savings accounts” and see first hand the impact they are making on families lives. Lawmakers from Mississippi visited Arizona in 2014 to learn more about the program. This year, lawmakers in a dozen states are considering similar accounts.

“The groups working on the ground in Mississippi—Empower Mississippi, the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, and others—deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the work they have done to bring this policy to the Magnolia State. Special needs students will be the beneficiaries of their hard work,” said Butcher.




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