Today, the Senate chose private academies over students with special needs, passing SB 2695, the bill that provides vouchers to pay tuition at private schools that are not required to provide special education services to children.
Astoundingly, 32 senators voted down an amendment that would have provided funding for direct services for up to 4,000 students with special needs who are enrolled in public, private, or home schools. The amendment also would have separated special education funding from other school funding, shining a light on the chronic underfunding of special education by the Legislature and requiring that these funds be spent only on special education. Finally, the amendment would have put an Autism Coordinator at the Mississippi Department of Education, a move requested repeatedly by the Autism Task Force. You can see your senator’s vote on that amendment here.
Instead, the Senate passed a privatization bill that gives 500 $7,000 debit cards to parents who agree to enroll their children in private schools that are not required to provide special services. The bill does nothing to ensure that Mississippi children are provided appropriate services, and it completely ignores the 60,000+ students with special needs in our chronically under-funded public schools. You can see your senator’s vote on the voucher bill here.