Mississippi has a dyslexia crisis. Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in America and affects somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of the population. This means there are thousands of Mississippi students with dyslexia, who without specialized therapy, will struggle to read and write. The good news is that dyslexia is very treatable if it’s diagnosed and addressed at an early age.
Unfortunately, there are vast swaths of this state where Mississippi’s public schools are not addressing the needs of students with dyslexia. Certainly, not all private schools have developed services to address the needs of students with dyslexia either, but many have. And if a private school has hired licensed dyslexia therapists in response to the growing demand for these services, why would anyone want to keep students from attending these schools and accessing the services they need?!
On this point, you’ll have to ask The Parents’ Campaign.
Well-intended people can disagree about funding levels for MAEP, whether we should elect or appoint school board members, or other education policy issues, but it’s unconscionable that anyone would attempt to block students with special needs from getting the help they need. It is an affront to basic human decency to campaign against these students who are simply trying to attend a school that helps them learn.
In 2012, in response to our dyslexia crisis, the legislature created the Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship program, which allows students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia and are not being well-served in their district school, the freedom to choose a different public school or private school that has an approved dyslexia program. The law has an extremely high standard for any private school that participates, including the requirement that schools employ Mississippi Department of Education licensed dyslexia therapists.
House Bill 1046, currently making its way through the Senate, keeps those high standards in place, but makes a few important changes, including:
- The scholarships will be expanded to students through 12th grade. The program is currently only available through 6th grade. This will serve students who did not receive the appropriate dyslexia services when they were younger.
- Accredited private schools will be allowed to accept the scholarships, provided they meet all the standards, including employing licensed dyslexia therapists. The program currently requires schools to be accredited by the Mississippi Department of Education, which significantly limits the number of schools who can participate.
- Students living in border counties will be allowed to use the scholarship in another state, if appropriate educational services are not available within thirty miles of the student’s home.
This program has been helping students since 2012, but because of its limitations only has 159 students enrolled at three private schools in the state. These common sense reforms in HB 1046 will give access to this program to more students who sorely need it. The Parents’ Campaign has made a business of standing in the way of students seeking opportunity and this latest email is an embarrassment.
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