80 Private Schools Participating In Special Needs ESA


Students in every corner of the state have used the Special Needs Education Scholarship (ESA) program to attend a private school this year.

In fact, the number of schools participating in the Special Needs ESA program grew by more than 70 percent over the past year. According to data from the Mississippi Department of Education, reimbursements have been filed for 80 different private schools during the 2016-2017 school year, including five schools in Shelby County, Tennessee. Last year, in the first year of the program, students attended 46 different private schools. This included three schools in Shelby County.

There are approximately 177 private schools in Mississippi, according to the data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

This large jump in the number of participating schools aligns with the growth in the number of students enrolled in the program.

Program At Full Capacity

Last year, in the first year of the program, 251 of the 434 available scholarships had been awarded by the beginning of the school year. Because of the rolling application process, and the available slots, that number increased each quarter last year. This year the program has been at maximum capacity of 425 students the entire year.

After a second lottery was held for this school year in January, approximately 100 families remained on the program’s waiting list.

What Families Enrolled In The Program Said After Year One

Earlier this year, Empower Mississippi released a survey of families enrolled in the Special Needs ESA program to gauge their thoughts after one year. According to those that participated in the survey, 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.

The application process for the next school year has begun. If you are a new family who is interested in applying for the program, the application- and instructions on how to apply- can be found here.

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