Expanding school choice in Mississippi has been a much talked about topic during the legislative session and with legislation underway to bring choice for more parents and students, it’s because of popular demand.
Grant Callen, President of Empower Mississippi said that 82% of Mississippians support an ESA program.
“This is wildly popular and it’s time to get it done,” said Callen.
Currently, the law only allows parents of students with special needs the right to choose where their kids go to school, however, a bill in the Senate looks to change that.
“When school choice is introduced into a community public school achievement scores actually go up,” Callen said. “That’s what we all want, we want…. a system where the public, private, charter, everybody does better because parents have more options.”
Callen added that the demand for the law is clear as there are hundreds of children on waiting lists for the program.
“98% of the participants in the ESA program were satisfied,” Callen said. “I dare say you won’t find 98% approval of your traditional public school.”
Callen said that they have proved the concept of school choice in the state and parents are wanting it.
“The biggest challenge that we have heard is from families across the state who are not eligible,” Callen said. “Senate Bill 2623 would expand that program to additional students and let others have that same option.”
Callen added that the fight for school choice has never been about public school vs. charter school or charter school vs. private school.
“Currently in our education system, there are not a lot of options,” Callen said. “Really for all of the talk about school choice in Mississippi, unless you live near a charter school, and there’s only three in the whole state, or you have a student with special needs, you don’t have school choice.”
Callen added that the passage of the school choice bill would only impact a school from receiving state dollars because they would follow the child to the next school.
“The local dollars will stay in the local district and federal dollars will also stay in that district,” Callen said.
The bill is set to be discussed on the chamber floor this week with a Thursday, February 8th deadline for all original floor action on general bills to be done by this time.
“Demand is the only measure of how fast the program grows,” Callen said. “If parents want this it will grow. If parents don’t, it won’t.”