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Special Needs Vouchers One Step Closer To Becoming Law in Miss.
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A measure that would create state-funded vouchers for special needs students may soon become law in Mississippi.

House lawmakers have approved the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act, yesterday. If enacted the program would give 65-hundred dollars to parents of 500 special needs students who want to take their children out of public school and place them in alternative education setting. Republican Representative Mark Formby of Picayune is the father of a special needs child.

"We often talk in this chamber about representing the least of these; there really is no one more least of these than those special needs children in our state," says Formby. "The truth is we have a pretty good special needs program that when you have children that don't fit in to the curricula they put together there just needs to be an out. This will give 500 children in a pilot program the opportunity to seek education elsewhere."

The bill passed by a vote of 65-51, but still drew fierce criticism from opponents who claimed the program would draw much needed cash away from public schools. Detractors also claimed the bill would not give parents enough money and that it wouldn't cover enough children. Democratic Representative David Baria of Bay Saint Louis offered an amendment that would have killed the vouchers in favor of using lawyers to help families get existing state services.

"There's just a disagreement over the best way to handle it," says Baria. "I thought that my proposal was a better way to afford immediate relief to the approximately 60,000 special needs children in the state so they can get what the law already allows them to receive."

In a statement Governor Phil Bryant applauded the passage of Senate 2695 saying he looks forward to signing the bill into law. Before he can do that, it must first head back to the Senate for its final approval.