Bills aim to help special needs kids

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Several new laws could be created this year that would assist special needs children in Mississippi.

District 2 Rep. Nick Bain (D-Alcorn) created House Bill 814, which is aimed at providing financial help for special education students.

“The bill would provide transparency in terms of funding for special education students in the local school districts. It would also create a statewide autism coordinator and would develop a fund to provide help with therapies, services and equipment for special education students,” Bain said. “Under the law, special needs students would stay in public school, where the state could continue to receive federal funds to help with their education, but the bill would create a fund within the Department of Health where parents fitting into certain income levels could go to receive financial aid to help with such items as respite care, private tutoring and other options.”

A similar piece of legislation, Senate Bill 2695 also known as the “Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs” bill, passed the Senate Education Committee earlier this week. If it becomes law, it would allow parents to use state funds for a scholarship to attend a school that best addresses their child’s needs.

Bain said parents of special needs students he spoke with in Corinth and Alcorn County did not want to remove their kids from public school, as they would have to do to be eligible for the scholarship proposal.

“They just wanted the public schools to be better equipped to provide the services their children are entitled to receive,” he said. “The bill I created is an attempt to do that.”

Bain said he wants to provide options for parents.

“I wanted to find a compromise between the scholarship bill and those who oppose such a program,” he added.

Bain’s legislation has the support of the Mississippi School Boards Association and the Parents Campaign, a nonprofit grassroots network of Mississippi parents of public school system students.

Nancy Loome, president of the Parent Campaign, said Bain’s proposal “provides real, substantive change for children with special needs.”

By Zack Steen for Daily Corinthian

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