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Mississippi Parents Push Lawmakers to Support Special Education Vouchers

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Parents of special education students in Mississippi are urging lawmakers to approve vouchers that would allow them to withdraw their children from public schools.

The parents spoke during a hearing in Jackson, Miss., with House and Senate lawmakers this week to publicize the proposed voucher plans, according to a story by the Associated Press. Parents of special needs students would receive debit cards worth more than $6,000, which could be spent on private school tuition or tutoring services.

The Associated Press writes that proponents of the special education vouchers are willing to make concessions to get the bills passed. They include limiting the program to 500 students; banning homeschoolers; and issuing vouchers only to students who have individualized education plans provided for under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Mississippi has 66,000 students with such plans. Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said in the story that lawmakers may specify that the vouchers be used only for state-accredited schools or state-certified tutors.

One parent, Natalie Gunnels of Tupelo, told lawmakers that public school administrators can't or won't take care of students like her son Patrick, who has difficulty walking, is sensitive to noises, and has trouble reading and writing.

"It's obvious to me and my husband that the public school system is not equipped to educate the Patricks of our state," Gunnels said, according to the story.

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