Monday, June 8, 2015

MDE provides info on special needs schollies

The Mississippi Department of Education issued the following press release:

MDE Releases Information on Special Needs Scholarship Program

JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education released today information for parents of students with disabilities who want to participate in the special needs scholarship program. Applications will be released and accepted beginning July 1 when the law becomes effective.

The application window is July 1-10 to ensure parents are notified of their application status before school starts in August. 

The 2015 Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act will provide up to $6,500 for educational savings accounts (ESA) for parents of students with disabilities who want to remove them from a public school to seek educational services elsewhere. To participate in the program:

§  the applicant must be a Mississippi resident;

§  the student must have had an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) within the last 18 months; and 

§  the parent must sign an agreement to adhere to the rules of participation.
Parents will be reimbursed for expenses quarterly (subject to availability of funds) after submission of a reimbursement request with proper documentation of expenses incurred.  Funds can also be paid quarterly directly to an educational service provider if approved by the parent.

Once an application is submitted, it will be reviewed for eligibility. Applications will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis until 50 percent of the annual enrollment limits are reached.  For all remaining applicants determined eligible, a random selection process will then be used to choose the recipients of the remaining ESAs. All parents will be notified no later than July 31 whether the application was accepted or denied.

“We want to ensure that the application process is fair to all and follows the law, which is why the department has created a packet of information for parents that outlines their responsibilities for participation in the program and the MDE’s role in administering the program,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. 

As allowed by the law, the MDE will deduct 6 percent from the total amount of funds appropriated for the program to cover the costs of overseeing the funds and administering the program. The actual number of ESAs available each year is based on the amount appropriated from the state’s General Fund. This year that amount is $3 million. 

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate directed the MDE to establish the total amount of each ESA for 2015-2016 at $6,500. This will result in 434 ESA accounts.
Additional information about the application process can be found at


Anonymous said...

I applaud the concept and helping a few hundred children is better than helping none.

However, I wish this money were going to identify ALL the children in Mississippi who have special needs when they enter school as in a poor state such as ours, too many children have not been properly evaluated and not all special needs are physically obvious.

I am concerned that while we do have programs to help some children, they are too few.

But, first we need to know the magnitude of the problem we are trying to solve.

Where are the children who are in most need? It doesn't help to have more non-residential programs in Jackson if the most need is elsewhere, for example. Nor does it help to give a parent money for special needs education if no program is available to which they have access.

If this kind of assessment has been done, I'm surprised to know nothing of it. Job one would be to inform the public so that parents with special needs children can be sure to have all the information they need.

Kingfish said...

I love it. I really do. You people gripe about there being no testing or a pilot program for the third grade reading gate before implementing it statewide. Then when this program as run as a pilot to see how it works out, you gripe that it doesn't cover anyone.

Heads you win, tails I lose. Got it.

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head, KF. That's a classic argument against education reform - we can't help them all so let's not help any. Tell that to the kids trapped in a failing classroom in the delta.

noel said...

I was thinking you lose because you said "schollies"! HTH

Anonymous said...

8:30 - This has to be rolled out in some way. Yes, an honest assessment of the needs is paramount. However, that would leave these first few hundred children without any extra help for that much longer. On the flip side, issuing funds without an application process or a limit of beneficiaries would be a disaster, as abuse and fraud would run rampant, likely killing this before it got off the ground. Your question about location and access is a logical concern, but could be spun as a form of redlining. It's possible the application process accounts for this, but it's understandable why it wouldn't be spoken of. Why would the creators, in this infant phase, mock up a blueprint of critical needs areas that can be used as political banter when all sides know the money isn't there to build/operate such facilities?

10:47 - Ah the long is the rest of the state going to have to prop up Bennie Thompson's district? How many decades will the rest of us be forced thru taxation to fund the residents of the desolate Delta towns because said residents are hell bent on staying put, whether there are employment opportunities available or not? Is there an acceptable time frame to expect change or are we ourselves trapped, chasing the elusive "if we just fund _______ more" theory?

Anonymous said...

OK, 12:56 - but add Scott, Greene, Clark counties as well, and Adams and Noxubee. Or, wait, maybe I'm missing something; is there a racial element at work here? Of course not.

Here's the problem with the voucher law: it was and is sold as a boon to special needs children. BUT THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT THAT THE CHILDREN RECEIVING THE VOUCHERS ACTUALLY RECEIVE ANY SPECIAL NEED SERVICES. Here's the money; good luck. No accountability. The law is a sham.

Anonymous said...

2:58 - This is 12:56. If mentioning the Delta is the perceived racial element, then please notice my comment was in response to 10:47s post that brought up the Delta. Not sure why you bring up another 2 districts that are also over 90% black, Adams and Noxubee.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but it appears your point is to label opponents of MAEP as racist. Assuming you support the MAEP funding model, how can one support sending more money with no oversight to failing school district administrators, yet find flaw in an application only program that gives some power back to the parents of special needs children? The administrators can easily spend MAEP money for their own benefit. On the other hand, it's virtually impossible for parents to abuse the program being discussed. Is the removal of these funds from the districts' control the sole reason for ire?

Anonymous said...

What does the special needs voucher cover? I have a child who is autistic, and I have a child with Asperger syndrome. Asperger falls under the same spectrum as Autism, but my child with Asperger is an A/B student. Would he also qualify for this $6,500? I don't consider him as being "special needs" and I would never apply for the voucher. I'm just thinking it's going to be difficult to determine who qualifies and who doesn't. Also, will any agency monitor where the voucher is used to make sure the services are offered at the receiving school? And if the services are offered at your home school, would you still be able to move your child just because you didn't feel the services there are adequate? It's going to be interesting to see how it's applied.

Anonymous said...

6:02, I started drafting a couple of snarky replies concerning the true intentions of certain legislators and MDE. However, I deleted them to say: I am glad that a parent who is a sincere advocate for their child is asking the right questions and is seeking to get he best results for their child. I hope that someone with enough intelligence as you will be able to successfully maneuver through the obstacles and be able to share your results at the end of the year with the legislators and policy makers.

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