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MDE announces special needs scholarship lottery

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There’s a lottery coming up, but it’s not the one you’re thinking of. It’s for children with special needs. The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) announced plans for a lottery on July 6th to award approximately 8 Education Scholarship Accounts (ESA) for the 2018-19 school year.

The ESA program provides scholarships to parents of students with disabilities who want to remove their child from a public school to seek educational services elsewhere. ESA recipients are eligible to be reimbursed up to $6,740 in 2018-19 for the cost of private educational services.

The law was established in 2015 by the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act and provides for approximately 411 ESA accounts for the 2018-19 school year. As of June 26th, approximately 403 ESAs have been awarded to students returning from the 2017-18 school year. Therefore, approximately 8 additional ESAs are available for 2018-19.

MDE added that the number of available ESAs is subject to change as they continue to receive certification data from current ESA participants.

All eligible applications received for the 2018-19 school year that have not yet been awarded will be included in the lottery. Only complete, eligible applications received by July 3rd will qualify for the lottery. There are currently approximately 188 applications on the waiting list for 2018-19. The law requires the MDE to hold a lottery to award ESAs when the demand exceeds the supply.

To participate in the ESA program:

  • the 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; and
  • the parent must sign an agreement to adhere to the rules of participation.

Parents who are accepted into the program will be reimbursed quarterly 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.

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