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Mississippi – Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Program

The Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Program, an education savings accounts program, allows Mississippi students with special needs to receive a portion of their public funding in a government-authorized savings account with multiple uses. The program was enacted in 2015 and launched in fall 2015. Read on for more information about funding, eligibility and regulations associated with this program.

Program Fast Facts

  • America’s third education savings accounts program

  • 153 participating students (2017–18)

  • 13 percent of students eligible statewide

  • 23 participating schools (2017–18)

  • Annual award value: $6,500 (2017–18)

  • Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 80 percent

Program Details

Mississippi’s Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Program Participation

Students Participating
School Year Ending

Click the + symbols to learn more about this program’s details.

Mississippi allows students with special needs to receive a portion of their public funding in a government authorized savings account with multiple uses. Mississippi started accepting applications for this education savings account (ESA) program on July 1, 2015.

Student Funding

The annual award amount is $6,500, subject to increase or decrease by the same proportion as the Mississippi Adequate Education Program base student cost, i.e., the funding amount provided by the state to public schools.

Student Eligibility

Students must have had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) within the past five years. While participating in this program, students are not eligible for either a Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship or a Nate Rogers Scholarship. Participating students are automatically approved for participation for the following year.

EdChoice Expert Feedback

Mississippi launched the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Program with limited eligibility for children with special needs. While this is a good step for some Mississippi students, it should not be the end goal for parental choice in education. Mississippi should continue to expand eligibility. The program is currently administered by the Department of Education. The Department of Revenue or a nonprofit designated to administer the funds would be a less politicized environment for overseeing the ESA program. The enrollment cap also severely limits the program. Lawmakers should lift the cap to allow all parents of eligible students access to an ESA. Mississippi also does not allow rollover funds to be saved into a college savings account if they remain unused. A rollover component, like in Arizona’s ESA, should allow the use of college savings accounts to promote the family’s consideration of opportunity costs and a long-term investment in postsecondary learning.

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: None
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: Conditional
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide
  • Enrollment Cap: 1,000
  • Account amount: $6,500
  • Testing Mandates: None
  • *Limited to students with special needs


School Requirements:

  • Be accredited by, or hold a provisional letter of accreditation from, a state or regional accrediting agency (does not include a home instruction program),
  • Comply with health and safety laws that apply to nonpublic schools
  • Hold a valid occupancy permit if required by municipality
  • Offer students the option of taking a nationally standardized norm-referenced achievement test
  • Comply with nondiscrimination policies in 42 USC § 1981
  • Provide parents of prospective students details of the school’s programs, qualifications, experience and capacity to serve students with disabilities
  • Have no record of fraud or abuse
  • Exclude from employment anyone not permitted by state law to work in a nonpublic school or who might pose a threat to the safety of students
  • Conduct criminal background checks on employees

Governing Statutes

Miss. Code Ann. §§ 37-181-1 through 21

Legal History

No legal challenges have been filed against the program.

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