Jeb Bush on Hand for Special Needs Bill Signing | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Jeb Bush on Hand for Special Needs Bill Signing

This morning, Gov. Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2695, which would give some families $6,500 in tax money for private school tuition, tutoring or other services outside the public schools.

This morning, Gov. Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2695, which would give some families $6,500 in tax money for private school tuition, tutoring or other services outside the public schools. Photo by Jacob Fuller.

This morning, Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill creating vouchers for some special education students.

The legislation, Senate Bill 2695, would give some families $6,500 in tax money for private school tuition, tutoring or other services outside the public schools.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush attended the bill's signing at the Capitol. The Mississippi program is based on one created in Florida under Gov. Bush, a Republican preparing to run for president.

Supporters say vouchers could help children whose needs are not being met, while critics say it's wrong to spend public money on private schools.

Grant Callen, president of Empower Mississippi, a conservative education reform group, called the bill "a dramatic leap forward in the way we educate students with special needs, and more broadly, the way we think about public education in Mississippi."

"In this age of innovation and personalization, why not allow parents the freedom to customize an education that they determine is right for their child? This bill does just that; it declares that parents know their children best and it empowers them to meet the individual educational needs of their children," Callen said in a news release.

Opponents of the bill argue that the program would help a small portion of Mississippi's 66,500 special-needs students. SB 2659 creates vouchers for 500 students the first year. Over five years, the program would grow to 2,500 students.

Critics say that special-needs students would benefit more if the Legislature had opted to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which establishes baseline funding for schools and lawmakers underfunded by more than $200 million this session.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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