Mississippi parents with special needs children enrolled in the Education Scholarship Account program are worried it will go away if the legislature doesn't take action soon.
Empower Mississippi, a nonprofit 501 political advocacy organization based in Ridgeland (a suburb of Jackson), says so far legislators have failed to provide funding to extend the popular program benefiting hundreds of families. Empower's founder and president, Grant Callen, says lawmakers have until summer to take action.
"This program was created [in 2015] as a five-year pilot program – it had a built-in sunset provision," he explains. "So if the legislature takes no action in the coming legislative session, this program will go away at midnight on June 30, 2020."
Empower Mississippi reports that the Magnolia State is one of only six in the country that offer this option for families. The organization has posted an online petition for those who desire the ESA program to continue.
According to Callen, many traditional school administrators would like to see ESAs ended for fear they will lose students and funding.
"[But] public schools shouldn't see this as a threat," he tells OneNewsNow. "Nobody intends for Education Scholarship Accounts to replace public education or for every child in the state to have one. We simply want to offer them to students who are falling through the cracks."
Mississippi, which was the third state in the U.S. to create an ESA program, had been appropriating $3 million a year to the program. According to EdChoice.com, the state increased that amount to $5 million for 2019–20 school year.