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Applications For Special Needs Vouchers Start July 1
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Parents of some special needs students in Mississippi will soon have a new way to financially support their child's education. The state Department of Education will begin enrolling children in the Special Needs Scholarship Program next month.

The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act, passed by lawmakers earlier this year, will go into effect July 1st. The law will give the parents of nearly 500 special needs students in Mississippi, $6,500 in state money for private school tuition, tutoring or other services outside public schools.

Gretchen Cagle oversees Special Needs Education for the state. She says the Department of Education will give parents ten days to submit applications.

"We set the initial window to be July 1, through July 10, with the idea that those students, those families would know for certain whether their students met eligibility criteria and had been awarded a scholarship prior to the first of August as school is getting started," said Cagle.

Cagle says the Department of Education will continue to accept applications after the 10-day window, but there will be no guarantee those students will be given the scholarship.

The short window has raised concerns from groups who supported the voucher program. Grant Callen is from Empower Mississippi -- a school choice advocacy group.

"Just imagine the challenges of a family meeting a 10-day application window in the middle of the summer, over Fourth of July," Callen said. "It just poses a significant challenge for families."

In accordance to state law, half of the scholarships will be given on a first come, first serve basis. All other will be placed in a lottery.