Education

State holding scholarship lottery for special needs children

Scholarship lottery applications for special needs students can be found on MDE’s website.
Scholarship lottery applications for special needs students can be found on MDE’s website. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

The Mississippi Department of Education announced Tuesday a scholarship lottery for special needs children whose parents want to find alternatives to public school.

The federal Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act of 2015 provides scholarships to parents of students with disabilities who want to remove their child from a public school to seek educational services elsewhere. Mississippi distrubutes those funds using a lottery system.

In Mississippi, the law provided for 425 education scholarship accounts for the 2016-17 school year. Though all 425 scholarships were awarded before the start of the school year, 134 recipients decided not to participate, MDE said.

Unawarded applications for the 2016-17 school year will be included in the lottery.

The application deadline for the lottery is Friday, Jan. 27. Applications can be found on MDE’s website. Applications received after Jan. 27 will be considered for the 2017-18 school year. Letters will be mailed to awardees on Feb. 1.

Education Scholarship Accounts for the 2016-17 school year were increased from $6,500 to $6,637.

The eligibility criteria for ESAs was also expanded to allow parents of children with an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) within five years from the date of application to apply for the ESA program. The original legislation required applicants to have an active IEP within 18 months of the date of application.

Some requirements of the program include:

▪  Applicant must be a Mississippi resident.

▪  The student must have had an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) within five years of the date of application.

▪  The parent must sign an agreement to adhere to the rules of participation.

Parents who are accepted into the program will be reimbursed for expenses with the proper paperwork. Funds can also be paid quarterly to a parent-approved educational service provider.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

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