Parents and students rally for school choice

Hundreds gathered outside the Mississippi State Capitol to rally for more school choice options.
Hundreds gathered outside the Mississippi State Capitol to rally for more school choice options.(WLBT)
Updated: Jan. 22, 2019 at 7:48 PM CST
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JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - School choice didn’t have much meaning in Mississippi until recent years.

Now, charter schools have been created, and public dollars have been directed to more than public schools.

The yellow scarves they wear represent choices, choices for parents on where they send their children to school.

“We think parents ought to have a variety of choices to do what they think is best for their child,” said Speaker Philip Gunn.

The state created education scholarship accounts for special needs students in 2015. But, access has never opened up, as the law stated it would.

“The wait-list is growing with over 200 students, and there are only 428 seats at the table. Law authorized 500 seats the first year and an additional 500 each subsequent year,” explained parent Leah Ferretti.

Now, families like the Ferrettis' are hoping the funding will dissolve the wait-list.

“Let this legislature find the money this year so kids can go to the best school for them,” noted Lieutenent Governor Tate Reeves.

One non-profit wants to see the same scholarships extended to students without special needs, and say one option would be to give preference to low-income families. Still, The Parents' Campaign worries it’s the wrong direction for the state’s education system.

“These are tax dollars that are being spent without any accountability whatsoever," said President of The Parents' Campaign Nancy Loome. "These voucher tax dollars are handed over to schools that have no responsibility to report what they’re doing with those funds. They’re able to choose which students they want to admit and which they don’t want to admit.”

A legislative watchdog report shows only 70 percent of the scholarship funds available were used the last two years. The other 30 percent was turned back in.

Some parents tell us the scholarship doesn’t ensure admission to the schools of their choice, and the timing often doesn’t work out.

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