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Mississippi Mom: “I just couldn’t sit back and let Max fail.”

• ExcelinEd

One Mississippi family is facing some serious financial consequences—all because they wouldn’t sit back and watch their son fail.

Earlier this year, Mississippi passed legislation to provide Education Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) in the amount of $6,500 for students with special needs. Families can uses these funds for private school tuition and fees, tutoring, therapy, etc.

But there’s a catch. To be eligible, families must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) issued by a public school. This year, over 100 Mississippi families have had their ESA applications rejected, primarily because their child has a private school service plan rather than a public school IEP.

Like many of these families, Joshua and Amanda Felder of Clinton, Miss. are left without the lifeline they thought ESAs would offer. And they are in this position because they made sacrifices to enroll their son Max in private school years ago when public school was clearly failing to meet his needs.

Empower Mississippi, recently featured a piece sharing Max’s story. Read an excerpt below, or head over to for the complete piece and to sign the petition supporting ESA expansion in Mississippi.

From a very early age, Joshua and Amanda noticed Max was developing at a different pace than most other children. He had speech issues and was not able to communicate with others…

When Max was two, he began to receive speech therapy from Hinds County as part of an early intervention program. At three, the program shifts from the county health department to the public school. That public school is the highly-rated Clinton School District, regarded as one of the best in the state.

After Max was evaluated by Clinton, the school district came to the conclusion that Max did not need any services based on their evaluation.

“He scores high on tests so it’s very hard to get somebody to believe your child has a disability,” Felder said. “There is nothing wrong with his ability to read something, analyze it, and answer it. But try asking him something and it is like pulling teeth to get him to respond. As parents, we were devastated because we knew he had problems.”

Since the Felder’s could not rely on their public school, they made the decision to enroll Max in Magnolia Speech School in Jackson because they believed that was the one place that could help him. Max is now in his third year at the school.

Magnolia is a private school accredited by the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) that specializes in providing services to children with communicative disorders. As soon as they evaluated Max, they determined he has a receptive and expressive language disorder, which affects a child’s ability to listen and understand language as well as their ability to communicate with others using language.

“From day one, Magnolia Speech School has understood Max, what his disability is, and how to help him,” Felder said. “He has improved so much in such a short period of time because of the services he’s received at Magnolia…

While the Felder’s knew Magnolia was—and remains—the only option for Max, it has not been an easy one for the family financially. Joshua works at a local restaurant while Amanda is a state employee.

“We struggle financially, but I just couldn’t sit back and let Max fail,” Felder said…

Head over to to read the complete piece.

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