The Nate Rogers Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program was enacted and launched in 2013. It is the nation’s only voucher program designed for students with speech-language therapy needs. Students with qualifying special needs can apply for a voucher to help them attend a private school that offers speech-language therapy. Learn more about the program, including funding and eligibility here.
Mississippi allows children with speech-language impairments to receive vouchers to attend private schools. Participating accredited private schools must be able to provide speech-language therapy.
The maximum voucher amount is equal to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program base student cost, i.e., the funding amount provided by the state to public schools. That amount is $5,626 in 2019–20.
Students must be in grades K–6 and have been screened properly and diagnosed with speech-language impairment. Students are eligible if, during the previous school year, they attended a public or state accredited special-purpose school that “emphasizes instruction in speech-language therapy and intervention.” The voucher is not available to fund homeschooling, virtual schools or students in juvenile detention centers.
Mississippi’s Nate Rogers Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program is so restrictive on student eligibility, funding and school regulations, only one child is currently participating. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, nearly 9 percent of young children could be diagnosed with speech-language impairment. That eligibility pool is restricted further in Mississippi in that the voucher is available only to children in grades K–6. Moreover, the Mississippi Department of Education has ruled that if a student with special needs has a speech impairment, but speech impairment is not his or her primary disability, that student is ineligible to receive a Nate Rogers voucher. As for funding, the maximum voucher is equivalent to the average amount of state spending per student, not the average amount of state spending per student with special needs. Finally, the program’s regulations could become burdensome for private schools. For example, the state board of education is given authority to extend the length of the school day or year for private schools and even develop curriculum and determine textbooks. In addition, participating schools must be a state-accredited nonpublic special-purpose school that has as its primary purpose the providing of comprehensive speech-language therapy instruction delivered by speech-language pathologists. If a child is already attending the few schools in Mississippi that meet that description, the child is ineligible for a scholarship. Accordingly, very few schools can participate in this program. One way this program could expand to great success would be to mirror Florida’s, Georgia’s and Oklahoma’s voucher programs for students with special needs.
Miss. Code Ann. §§ 37-175-1 through 29
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
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