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Senate passes bill to extend ESA program

Photo by News Mississippi

The lone bill dealing with the state’s ‘Special Needs Education Scholarship Account’ program (ESA) has passed the Senate. 

While several other bills regarding funding and space for the program were introduced, they died in the committee stage. The bill that was passed by the Senate with a 39-13 final vote simply extends the program until 2024. 

Created in 2015, the ESA program provides up to $6,500 for parents seeking to find a new school for their child upon receiving a special needs diagnosis from their school district. 

The program currently serves around 430 students with over 200 on a waiting list, and many parents of waitlist students were hoping for more change. Stacey Ware is one of those parents, and after the majority of the ESA bills died, she posted her frustrations to social media. 

“I have never been so disappointed with our legislators and our state as a whole. Our special needs children deserve more than the leftovers or crumbs on the floor. They are valuable members of society who deserve just as much as everyone else. Open your eyes and your heart. You are missing out on a blessing because you fail to see their beauty and potential. You haven’t heard the last of this Mama Bear. I will continue to roar. I might even run for office and take your job since you can’t seem to do it,” Ware’s post partially said.

One amendment was made to the bill on the Senate floor. Senator Chad McMahan’s amendment would send unused funds back to public schools if a student exits the program. 

The author of bill & Senate Education Committee Chairman, Senator Gray Tollison, stated that no changes will be made to bill throughout the rest of the political process.

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