By Lynn R. Mitchell
Former Florida Governor and likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush will attend a signing ceremony with Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant today at 10:00 a.m. at the Old Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi, along with members of the Legislature and other supporters of the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act that passed earlier this year.
A press release explained the connection between Mississippi and Jeb’s Foundation for Excellent in Education that supported the measure:
Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education supported the measure, which provides vouchers for for parents of children with special needs to spend $6,500 a year in public money on private schools and services. The pilot program will cover 500 students the first year, then add 500 a year until it reaches the five-year mark, at which point it would have to be reauthorized by the Legislature. Mississippi has more than 66,000 public school students with disabilities, and ranks last in the nation for their graduation rate, a 22.5 percent.
The legislation was pushed the last two years by state Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupleo, and Rep. Carolyn Crawford, R-Pass Christian, and brought heated debate among lawmakers and public education leaders. Supporters say state public education is failing children with special needs and parents need options such as the private school vouchers would provide. Opponents say it will strip money from an already underfunded public education system and will not help address the problems with public special education.
Former two-term Florida Gov. Bush, 62, is expected to be a GOP candidate for president in 2016. He has not formally announced a run, but created a leadership PAC in January.
Republican Bryant has not endorsed a presidential candidate.