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Special education voucher plan passes Mississippi Senate

button_educationJACKSON — Mississippi senators have voted to give $7,000 vouchers to a small percentage of special education students so they could go to private school or receive other education services outside the public schools.

Senate Bill 2695 passed Wednesday, with 27 senators voting for it and 21 against it. The proposal will move to the House for more work.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Republican Sen. Nancy Collins of Tupelo, said Mississippi has about 63,000 students in special education.

Collins said 500 students could receive the aid the first year of the program. Another 500 a year would be added until the total reached 2,500 students receiving vouchers.

Collins said parents of students in special education often find themselves frustrated that schools don’t provide all the children need.

“We’re going to allow the parents to customize their education,” Collins said.

Opponents of the plan said Mississippi should try a broader approach to improve special education services.

Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, asked Collins why the voucher program would be open to any family, regardless of income. He said poor families have a greater need for financial help.

“I daresay that the private schools are not going to take many poor people,” Horhn said. “They certainly aren’t going to take (students) who have behavioral issues.”

Collins said that under the current system, without special education vouchers, “the poorest children have the fewest options” and families with higher incomes can afford to send their children to private schools.



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