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MDE Announces Lottery for Special Needs Scholarship Program Applications

July 11, 2016

CLINTON, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education announced plans today for a lottery on July 20 to award the remaining Education Scholarship Accounts (ESA) for the 2016-17 school year.

Established by the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act of 2015, the ESA program provides scholarships to parents of students with disabilities who want to remove their child from a public school to seek educational services elsewhere.

For the 2016-17 school year, the law provides for 425 ESA accounts. As of July 1, 250 have been awarded to students returning from the 2015-16 school year. Therefore, 175 ESAs remain available for 2016-17. Since the number of applications received for 2016-17 exceeds 175, the MDE must now hold a lottery to award the remaining scholarships.

All eligible applications received for the 2016-17 school year that have not yet been awarded will be included in the lottery. The deadline to submit an application before the lottery is July 19. Only complete, eligible applications will qualify for the lottery. All applicants will be notified of their status by July 25.

ESAs for the upcoming school year will be increased from $6,500 to $6,637. State law requires ESAs to adjust annually to proportional changes in the base student cost of MAEP, Mississippi’s public education funding formula.

For 2016-17, the eligibility criteria for ESAs has been expanded to allow parents of children with an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) within five years from the date of application to apply for the ESA program. The original legislation required applicants to have an active IEP within 18 months of the date of application.

To participate in the program:

  • the applicant must be a Mississippi resident;
  • the student must have had an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) within five years of the date of application; and
  • the parent must sign an agreement to adhere to the rules of participation.

Parents who are accepted into the program will be reimbursed for expenses quarterly after submission of a reimbursement request with proper documentation of expenses incurred.  Funds can also be paid quarterly directly to an educational service provider if approved by the parent.

“The law outlines the MDE’s role in administering the ESA program, which includes the application and reimbursement process,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Our procedures were established to ensure equity and provide all families with the opportunity to access the scholarships.”

For more information, visit

ESA Resources:

Education Scholarship Account application


Media Contact: 
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications

Jean Cook, APR
Communications Specialist