Despite hundreds of Mississippi students waiting in line for education scholarships, a bill that would have expanded the program in the Magnolia State has died in a legislative committee.
Started to help special-needs students, the ESA program was created in 2015 with a provision that 500 additional scholarships would be funded each year, but Grant Callen of Empower Mississippi says that has not happened and the program is set to expire next year.
"So there's 428 students currently in the ESA program and over 200 extra students who are on a wait list," he advises. "And so those students have been urging the legislature and leaders across the state to expand this program."
Mississippi is famously one of the poorest states, with a public education system that lags behind most others, and the latest proposal --- killed in committee earlier this month--- would have expanded the scholarship program to benefit low-income families.
The state's largest daily newspaper, The Clarion-Ledger, reported in a Feb. 5 story that the "controversial" push to expand the scholarship program "fizzled out" during the current legislative session.
Lawmakers were unhappy with the proposed expansion of the program so the expansion language was stripped from the bill, the story stated.
Meanwhile, a survey shows there is a 91 percent satisfaction rate among families that have been able to take advantage of ESAs.
Callen calls the program "innovative" because it "puts parents in the driver's seat" in the education of their own children.
"And there are those," he warns, "that don't want to see parents have that control."
While the program has hit a brick wall, there is some hope: there is still an appropriations bill that would provide an additional $3.25 million dollars to keep the program going if passed, Callen says.