House members on Wednesday approved a pilot program providing up to $6,500 annually for children with special needs who leave public schools for educational services elsewhere.

Despite objections mostly from Democratic lawmakers and opposition from The Parents’ Campaign, the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act passed the House by a vote of 65-51.

“This thing is a long way from the governor,” House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon said about Senate Bill 2695 after nearly an hour of debate.

Authored by state Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, the measure now goes back to the Senate, which can invite negotiations or send it to the governor to sign.

This is the second year that Collins and state Rep. Carolyn Crawford, R-Pass Christian, had introduced such legislation. Last year’s effort also passed both chambers but died in conference. Gov. Phil Byrant called on lawmakers to send this year’s version to his desk.

“This will give parents real options to find the best education path for their children,” Bryant said in a statement. “I look forward to the Senate concurring and sending the bill to my desk.”

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