Our Education Choice Scorecard grades legislators on their voting record on four key bills that give parents education options for their children.
Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship (HB 1031 passed in 2012)
This bill allows children with dyslexia to receive vouchers to attend private schools if their current public schools cannot provide programs that help reading disorders. Participating accredited private schools must be able to provide dyslexia therapy.
Mississippi Charter School Act (HB 369 passed in 2013)
This bill set the guidelines for the creation of public charter schools in Mississippi. Charter schools must be nonprofit educational organizations, cannot charge tuition, and must administer the same state tests and are rated under the same system as traditional public schools. They must accept all students who apply, unless there is not enough room, in which case they draw names, giving all students an equal chance to attend. Charter schools are subject to the same restrictions on teaching religious doctrine as traditional public schools and may not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, or disability.
Communities who wish to apply for a charter school apply to the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board, which evaluates the qualifications of charter school applicants and approves qualified applications. Charter schools may open, or existing schools could convert to charter status, in all school districts. However, school boards in districts rated A, B, or C may veto the approval of an application for a charter school that would be located in their district. Charter schools are only open to students who live in the district where the charter school is located.
No students or teachers are assigned to charter schools by a school district. Parents choose to enroll their children and teachers choose whether to apply for employment.
Speech-Language Therapy Scholarship (HB 896 passed in 2013)
This bill allows children with speech-language impairments to receive vouchers to attend private schools. Participating accredited private schools must be able to provide speech-language therapy. Students must be in grades K-6 and have been screened properly and diagnosed with speech-language impairment. Students are eligible if, during the previous school year, they attended a public or state accredited special-purpose school that “emphasizes instruction in speech-language therapy and intervention.”
The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act (HB 765)
This bill would empower parents of public school students with special needs with the ability to choose new educational options for their children. Currently for a child with special needs, if their public school is not able to meet their educational needs, they do not have many options. Unless the parent can afford to pay for private school tuition or to move to a different school district, the student is forced to settle for a sub-par education or take legal action against the district to fight for appropriate educational services.
The Equal Opportunity Act would give parents the option of withdrawing their child from the public school and receiving a Education Scholarship Account (ESA) with approximately $6,500 to help pay for educational expenses outside the traditional public school. Funds would be distributed through a debit card and used for private school tuition, educational therapies, and tutoring. They can even save funds for future college expenses.
This bill failed on the last day of the 2014 Legislative Session in the House of Representatives by a vote of 57-63. To see how your legislator voted on this bill, see our detailed Education Choice Scorecard.