The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act cleared its first hurdle Tuesday when it passed the Senate Education Committee despite continued opposition from The Parents’ Campaign, which publicly backed an alternative measure on the same day.

Parents Campaign Executive Director Nancy Loome said Senate Bill 2695 not only hurts special-needs children but seeks to dismantle the state’s public education system by diverting tax dollars to private institutions.

Authored by state Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, Senate Bill 2695 would provide up to 500 vouchers to special-needs children whose parents want to withdraw them from public schools, ostensibly because of poor services.

Vouchers provide parents $7,000 with which to purchase tuition at an eligible private school, tutoring services, curriculum materials, transportation, testing supplies, therapies and textbooks. The Mississippi Department of Education has oversight, and the PEER Committee would do a biannual review.

Funding for the vouchers would come out of the state’s general fund and not from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program or the local school district.

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