Lawmakers call special needs voucher program alarming - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Lawmakers call special needs voucher program alarming

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Lawmakers are fighting back on legislation aimed at giving parents more options for special needs kids.

Parent Jennifer Gatewood left Thursday's press conference offended.

"They had the hello kitty clock," said Gatewood. "That was real cute. But what our children deal with is not cute at all."

Her son has severe ADHD and speech issues. He now attends a private school and would be eligible for the voucher program that some senators are calling alarming.

The House and Senate have each passed a version of the bill.

"This is what concerns us," said Senator Hob Bryan-D. "It applies to children with problems such as allergies, with problems such as speech difficulty."

Bryan says even if that problem goes away, the families will still get the funding.

"For 12 years once that child has that problem, he or she can withdraw $6,000 a year from the state treasury to go to a private school," explained Bryan.

The concern is that state money will be shifted in the wrong direction.

"It's going to take money away from the public schools and overwhelmingly most children with special needs are in the public schools," described Bryan. "By taking money away from the public schools, you're harming the children with special needs."

These Senators think students with the most severe special needs would need more than the six-thousand a year.

"This bill opens up a Pandora's box where state funds can be misused," said Senator David Jordan-D.

Still, Jennifer Gatewood says the money is needed to give children like her son the extra attention they really need.

"They said earlier this was based on the parents decision because this is what's best if the parents say this is what's best," she said. "The school has also said and acknowledged these children have special needs."

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