Mississippi is entering an exciting new era of educational opportunity.
The Special Needs Education Scholarship Account was approved in 2015 and with the first year now behind us, we wanted to hear what parents thought of the program. So, we surveyed parents from across the state who have students enrolled in the ESA program to get their feedback.
It turns out, when you give parents a choice about where their children can attend school, those parents are a lot more satisfied with their children’s school. This is hardy rocket science, but it sure is nice to have the evidence to support what we already suspected.
As you may remember, for two years we worked alongside parents, special needs advocates, and legislators to fight for the passage of the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act, also called the Special Needs ESA program. This groundbreaking program provides families with an education scholarship account worth about $6,500 that they can use to obtain a wide variety of educational services and products for their children, including private school tuition, educational therapy, tutoring, textbooks, curricular materials, and more.
Here are some of those highlights from the survey:
The survey found that ESA parents are highly satisfied with the ESA program. More than nine out of ten respondents expressed satisfaction with the program, including:
- 63 percent who are very satisfied with the ESA program;
- 28 percent who are somewhat satisfied;
- Five percent who were neither satisfied nor unsatisfied; and
- Five percent who were somewhat unsatisfied.
Moreover, 98 percent of respondents expressed satisfaction with the school or educational program they chose for their child using an ESA, including:
- 71 percent who are very satisfied with the school or program their child is currently in;
- 27 percent who are somewhat satisfied; and
- Two percent who are somewhat unsatisfied.
This contrasts sharply with parents’ low level of satisfaction with the school that their child was attending prior to receiving an ESA, for which fewer than three in 10 respondents expressed satisfaction, including:
- 38 percent who were very unsatisfied with the school or program in which their child was educated before enrolling in the ESA program;
- 29 percent who were somewhat unsatisfied;
- Nine percent who were neither satisfied nor unsatisfied;
- 19 percent who were somewhat satisfied; and
- Five percent who were very satisfied.
The results are clear: For families who were not being well served in public schools, Mississippi’s Special Needs ESA program is changing lives and parents are loving the result.