Students, teachers and lawmakers gathered on the steps of the Mississippi Capitol to kick off ‘School Choice Week’.
During every legislative session, education is one of the most heavily debated topics, and this year will be no different. During the rally at the Capitol this morning, elected officials and parents joined together to discuss the future of school choice in Mississippi.
“It should not matter what a kid’s zip code is, nor should it matter what a kid’s mom and dad do for a living, every kid in our state deserves an opportunity for success,” Lt. Governor Tate Reeves said.
One of the legislative outcomes discussed at the rally was the expansion of the state’s Special Needs Education Scholarship Account (ESA) program. The program provides funds for parents seeking to find a new school for their child, and while it has been well-received, many students remain on a waiting list.
Currently, parents wait on the results of a lottery to see if their child gets to enter the ESA program. With 428 spaces in the program filled, 200 students are on the waitlist, and parents are looking for answers. Leah Ferretti is one of those parents, and she spoke to the crowd at the Capitol.
“The level funding of this program has left hundreds of Mississippi families out in the cold. I have three dyslexic children; one who has received an ESA, one who is on the waitlist, and one who will never receive a chance to be at the table,” she said.
Ferretti called on lawmakers to create a new funding mechanism to ensure that available funds meet the growth and demand of the program to lessen the burden placed on families. Speaker of the House Philip Gunn voiced his support for the program and the expansion of charter schools in Mississippi.
“I believe that we need to expand the options for the children of this state, Gunn said. “This is not about what’s best for the teachers or the employment system, this is about doing what’s best for the children. I think education starts at home with the parents, and the parents are the most equipped to know exactly what their child needs. The state’s role in education is to supplement that choice so that education is enhanced.”
Empower Mississippi sponsored the rally, and founder Grant Callen stated that school choice puts parents in the driver’s seat.
“It’s time for lawmakers to stand and answer the call from parents and students to expand education options to more students until every student in Mississippi has access to a high-quality education that they chose,” Callen said.
The rally was one of nearly 250 events that will take place across the state this week to celebrate ‘School Choice Week’.