Future unclear for bills to expand education scholarship accounts

Education Vouchers Bill

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Public tax dollars being used for private education is at the center of the ongoing school choice debate at the State Capitol.

The energy from the scene of yellow scarves, dancing, and calls for more school choice at last week’s rally is seemingly fading.

There are two bills filed, one in each chamber. Both would expand the qualifications for education scholarship accounts.

Those are available now but just for special needs students. If this year’s bills pass, students without special needs could qualify.

3 on your side has learned that most legislators weren’t as enthusiastic about the topic as the crowd at last week’s rally. Not even the House bill’s author.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think that there is the appetite to really tackle that this year,” said Rep. Carolyn Crawford.

Opponents say it was a bad idea from the start.

“Taxpayers deserve accountability for their tax dollars and those tax dollars are intended for the public good," noted The Parents' Campaign Executive Director Nancy Loome. "And the public is benefited when we have strong public schools where all children can be served. And that’s the more appropriate use of those dollars.”

Still, there are lawmakers who take issue with that narrative.

“It’s not the school’s money," said Crawford. "It’s the kid’s money and the kids need to go where they can get the services that they need.”

“I don’t really buy into the idea that we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul," noted Sen. Joey Fillingane. "This is all pubic money. This is all tax dollars that’s paid by our citizens and I trust the parents to make better decisions about their child’s education than some bureaucrat here in Jackson.”

The House and Senate Education committees have yet to bring the bills up for discussion. They have until Tuesday to pass them out of committee and keep them alive. But the talk around the Capitol doesn’t make that seem likely.

However, Governor Bryant did post to social media Thursday saying he was in support of the bills to expand the scholarship programs.

Copyright 2019 WLBT. All rights reserved.