MDE releases information on Special Needs Scholarship Program

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) -  This is a news release from Mississippi Department of Education. 

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