Despite the fact that the Senate version of an appropriations bill to extend Mississippi's Education Scholarship Account (ESA) program beyond 2020 was approved, the House did not even bring the new legislation up for a vote.
Mississippi’s House Education Chairman, Rep. Richard Bennett (R-Long Beach), declined to take up Senate Bill 2675 before the deadline to pass it out of committee, according to Mississippi Today.
Empower Mississippi Vice President Elyse Marcellino contends that Bennett made this determination in the face of the school choice program’s immense popularity.
"The most recent survey of the program shows that 91 percent of people who have an ESA are satisfied with it,” Marcellino pointed out. “And, really, it shows that many parents were looking for things that they wanted the [new] freedom [of education] to find – things like more individual attention, smaller class sizes."
The pro-family leader maintains that the program – approved in 2015 – established 428 scholarships for special needs students, initially with an additional 500 to be added each year, but she laments that legislators have not allowed this to come to fruition.
"So, at this point, we're in the fourth year of the program,” Marcellino stressed. “There should technically be 2,000 ESAs available, and yet, there are only 428."
Marcellino pointed out that the state legislature will have a final chance next year to appropriate the $3 million to keep the program going; however, if this does not take place, she contends that the ESA program will die.