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Waitlisted Families to Receive ESAs

Families

Mississippi families who have been waitlisted for years hoping to receive a Special Needs Education Scholarship Account (ESA) received word that their wait is over.

The Mississippi Department of Education announced today that for the first time in the program’s history the number of ESAs available for the upcoming school year has increased. In addition, ESAs will not be awarded by lottery but in order of application with priority being given to those eligible applicants who have waited longest.

“ESAs will be awarded on a first come, first served basis and priority will be given to families that have previously submitted an eligible application but have not yet been awarded an ESA,” the release stated.

This news comes as an answered prayer for hundreds of families like the Ware family of Florence who have been applying and waiting for years for an ESA.

“After five lotteries, this was our sixth attempt at an ESA scholarship.  This is a huge blessing and relief for our family,” said Stacy Ware.

“We are thrilled that many more families will finally be able to gain access to ESAs. This would not have been possible without the commitment of the Lieutenant Governor and other legislative advocates this year to addressing the wait list. ESAs continue to be a popular option for families with children who have special needs and can benefit from a setting other than the one to which they are assigned,” said Grant Callen, President of Empower Mississippi.

The 2019 legislative appropriation of an additional $2 million for the ESA program provides for approximately 695 ESAs for the 2019-2020 school year. MDE anticipates that 415 ESAs will be used by students returning to the program and that additional funds have created 280 available ESAs.

ESA applications for the 2019-2020 school year must be submitted by June 20, 2019. MDE stated that letters will be mailed to new ESA recipients upon approval no later than July 1, 2019.

The ESA program enables parents of students with special needs to direct their state education tax dollars to the educational setting and services of their choice. The ESA can be used for tuition, therapy, textbooks, tutoring, transportation, and other qualified expenses. The value of the ESA for the 2019-2020 school year is $6,765 – an increase from last year’s value of $6,594.

Applications received after the June 20 deadline will be reviewed by MDE and approved on a rolling basis until 50% of the enrollment cap set by law is reached.

To participate in the ESA program:

  • the applicant must be a Mississippi resident;
  • the student must have had an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) within five years of the date of application; and
  • the parent must sign an agreement to adhere to the rules of participation.

Parents whose students are accepted into the program will be reimbursed quarterly after submitting proper documentation. Parents can also approve direct quarterly payments to educational service providers.

For more information, visit www.mdek12.org/OSE/ESA or call the MDE Office of Special Education at 601-359-3498.