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ESA School Choice bill dies, legislators react

Education Scholarship Accounts expansion will not be happening in Mississippi this year. In an upset yesterday, the bill to expand the Education Scholarship Accounts died on the calendar in the Senate because they declined to vote on the bill.

“Over the past seven years, Mississippi has made tremendous strides in providing parents a choice in their children’s education,” said Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves. “I appreciate the parents who have shared stories about how their children are flourishing in new classroom environments because they have the ability to choose a school that best fits their needs.”

Reeves said that there was not enough support in the House at this time, however he said that education on school choice needs to continue.

“We need to continue to educate legislators, in both chambers and in both political parties, on the success Mississippi parents have seen in the current ESA program and how school choice will have long-term benefits to our state,” Reeves said. “My goal is to give every child in Mississippi an opportunity for success regardless of their zip code or what their parents do for a living. Through school choice, increased investment in classrooms, and raising the achievement level of our students, we will see a stronger workforce and more economic growth in Mississippi’s future.”

Grant Callen, President of Empower Mississippi who has been a huge advocate for school choice in the state said that they were disappointed the legislature chose not to take up SB 2623.

“For years, our state leaders have talked about the need to provide parents with more school choice opportunities, but when they have had the opportunity to advance legislation that would further that goal, progress has been far too slow,” said Callen. “While the ESA expansion will not happen this session, the fight is not over. It will continue until every family in Mississippi can choose the right educational setting for their child.”

Senator Gray Tollison, author of the bill and Chairman of the Senate Education committee said he hopes to submit a revised ESA bill during the next legislative session in 2019.

“This was a start and it takes several years for education reform legislation,” said Tollison. “Just like in the past with charter schools, it takes several years for members to be educated about it to understand how it would help transform education in Mississippi.”

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