Parents of Mississippi's special needs children favor a set of bills that would give them a six-thousand dollar education voucher for private schools. But as MPB's Paul Boger reports opponents of the measure believe the program would take money away from the state's cash-strapped public education system.
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Standing in the Capitol rotunda yesterday, parents of special needs children asked lawmakers to approve measures that would help them give their children the attention they need. Vancleave resident Donna Brewer says her daughter --Hannah -- hasn't received the educational options given to other students.
"Hannah was put into a self-contained classroom with three other students, and classes such as art and music, or trying out for band, or even finding out it that's something she can participate in -- they just shut you down." said Brewer. "It's not fair. So we're here to show support for it and to send a message that we're ready for options to be available. If the schools can't meet the needs then we want to have options for our kids."
Under the proposal, parents of special needs public school students could receive a six-thousand dollar voucher could be spent on private school tuition or private tutoring services.
However, Democratic Senator Hob Bryan of Amory says the voucher program would ultimately hurt the state's other children.
"If you have a child for example, with asthma, with a speech impediment, you can send that child to a private school." Bryan said. "So you're taking money away that otherwise could be used on children with severe problems. There won't be enough money for them, because you've drained away $6,000 a year for children who are simply going to private school, because their parents prefer to put them in a private school instead of a public school."
Republican Senator Nancy Collins of Tupelo says the program will have strict oversight, and would only be available to the state's neediest children.
"If they use it inappropriately they're off the program." said Collins. "Now all of this is because we want this to be the most accountable program we have in state government. This is not going to be abused because it will be for the most severe disabled children."
Both chambers of the state legislature have already approved an earlier version of the bill, but finalized copies are set to come up for debate soon.