The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act enacted by the Mississippi Legislature during the 2015 Session created the Education Scholarship Account (ESA) program (Senate Bill No. 2695). It is a program designed to give those parents with special needs children the option of withdrawing their child from the public school system and receiving a designated amount of funds to help defray the cost of private school tuition or other specific allowable activities to educate their child. The administration of this program has been designated to be performed by the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE).
Parents of current ESA participants do not need to reapply each year.
The MDE is charged in the law with the responsibility of developing a standard application to be used to assess the eligibility of each applicant. This application is available here and also in each school district so every interested person will have the opportunity to apply.
For a student to be eligible to participate in the ESA program the parent must sign an agreement promising to adhere to statutory requirements. As part of the application process, parents are required to initial and sign the Parent/Guardian Application Responsibilities document that lists these requirements. This signed agreement will ensure that students are selected to participate whose parents are willing to abide by these requirements set forth by the law.
Once the recipients of the program are chosen, they will be mailed an award packet. This packet will include an award letter and reimbursement request instructions. Since the law is very precise on the exact uses allowed for the ESA funds, the OSE has established a list of allowable activities that is available here and will also be given to each recipient of the ESA program in their award packet.
Tuition at an eligible school is a permissible use of the ESA funds.
The law is very precise on the exact duties the MDE is required to perform. A list of these duties has been established and is available here. They will also be included in the award packet provided to the selected recipients of the ESA program.
ESA Disbursement Dates
1st Quarter: September 30, 2020
2nd Quarter: December 18, 2020
3rd Quarter: March 31, 2021
4th Quarter: June 30, 2021