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Empower Mississippi Hopes to Empower More Students Through Expanded ESA Availability

RIDGELAND, Miss.- New legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to expand education choice options to all Mississippi families.

A house bill introduced by Rep. John Moore (R-Brandon), and a senate bill, introduced by Sen. Buck Clarke (R-Hollandale), will make the Education Scholarship Account (ESA) program available to most students in Mississippi by giving first dibs to students with special needs and then low income students. These bills, if passed, would award scholarships that would allow parents the ability to move their child(ren) to a school that would better suit their needs.

“Parents know their children best,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “And as parents, we make every decision about what’s best for our children. We choose their doctor, their babysitters, even the food that we put on the table for them, so why wouldn’t we give parents the ability to choose something as important as where their child goes to school? This bill is a tremendous step toward ensuring that every child in Mississippi has the opportunity to choose a high-quality education. I am proud to support it, and I thank Sen. Clarke and Rep. Moore for their leadership on this issue.”

Grant Callen, President of Empower Mississippi, says the time has come for Mississippi to move forward in education.

“Every day Mississippi families in poorly performing public schools exercise school choice by moving to better school districts or placing their children in private schools. Unfortunately, these options are only a realistic possibility for those with financial means,” said Grant Callen. “It’s time for all students to have access to quality education options and this bill would allow parents to choose the best educational setting for their child. We applaud Chairman Moore and Chairman Clarke for their leadership and commitment to Mississippi’s children.”

The ESA account would allow parents to not only pick the school that is best for their child, but invest in therapies, books, and any other supplemental materials needed for enhancing their child’s education.

“My family is in desperate need for help for my son Max,” Amanda Felder of Clinton said. “We did not qualify for the ESA last year, but we support this expansion because it will help my family and so many others like us.”

If a family already has ESA, they’ll be able to keep it. And children entering kindergarten or first grade would also be eligible. But it could help more:

  • Students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or specified disability
  • Students with an active duty military parent
  • Foster children who have achieved permanency through adoption or guardianship
  • Siblings of currently eligible and participating students

Students with special needs will continue to qualify for an ESA in the amount of $6,500, while low income students will be eligible $5,000. Middle class families could receive up to $4,000, and all others, $3,000.

The program is capped at one percent of public school enrollment in its first year.

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