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Advocates Lobby Lawmakers to Renew Education Scholarships

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Advocates Lobby Lawmakers to Renew Education Scholarships
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Parent John Wells Talking About Benefits of Education Scholarships
Desare Frazier

Advocates for School Choice are lobbying lawmakers to renew a program they say is needed to help children with special needs. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

More than 800 Children from Mississippi charter, public and private schools rallied at the capitol for National School Choice Week. Advocates here are also urging lawmakers to renew the Education Scholarship Account program, which ends this year. It provides about $6,500 to special needs students to help pay for tuition or services at private schools. Grant Callen is with the non-profit Empower Mississippi.

"It has been a life changing program for many of them who have access now to schools they wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise. Many students are at St. Richards, or New Summit or Magnolia Speech School," said Callen.

According to the state department of education 532 students receive the funds. In 2018, a state oversight committee found more accountability is needed. House Republican Richard Bennett of Long Beach chairs the Education Committee.

"I think that the voucher program that we have now has a lot of problems. I think that we need to evaluate that before we extend it," said Bennett.

Democratic Senator Sollie Norwood of Jackson is on his chamber's Education Committee. He doesn't support the program.

"My position is, we fund the public schools. Lets fund the public schools. Let give the public schools the money and the necessary tools to educate all children," said Norwood.

Last year, $5 million was allocated for the scholarships which began in 2015.