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Special Needs Bill Passes Senate Committee, Has Support of Governor

JACKSON, Miss.–A possible new law that would give Mississippi children with special needs a chance to choose a school that could better serve them has passed the Senate Education Committee and now is up for consideration on the Senate floor.

The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act passed with a near unanimous vote Tuesday.

“I congratulate Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison and the Senate Education Committee for taking a step in support of students with special needs,” said Gov. Phil Bryant. “These children and their families don’t need more education bureaucracy, they need real options now.  Passage of this bill is a step in the right direction, and I urge the House to act in favor of these students, as well.”

Rep. Carolyn Crawford, a parent of a child with special needs, said she was surprised last year’s similar bill did not pass the legislature and that the possibility of at least one version of the bill passing and becoming law this year would be a step in revamping the special education system in the state.

There are two versions of the bill. Sen. Nancy Collins sponsors the Senate version and Crawford sponsors the House version.

“This is an option we can give to our students, hopefully while they are revamping,” she said.

“We’re optimistic,” said Mandi Rogers, a disability advocate who has been lobbying the legislature since the late 1990s. “We’ve addressed the concerns of the legislature. We’ve addressed concerns of families. We’re just optimistic it’s gonna pass and we’re gonna get some change for children.”

The opposing side last year were concerned that children with special needs should get higher quality services from the existing public education system.

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