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Controversial Ed Scholarship Bill Headed to Full Senate

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Controversial Ed Scholarship Bill Headed to Full Senate
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School Choice Rally at State Capitol, Jan. 2018
Associated Press

A controversial bill is making it's way through the Mississippi legislature that would use taxpayer dollars to pay for private school tuition. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

Senator Gray Tollison of Oxford has authored a bill to expand the state's education scholarship accounts. Currently, parents of special needs and Dyslexic students can receive tax payer funds to send their child to a private school to get the services they need. Tollison says special needs and low-income students would receive preference but the bill would open the program to anyone.

"I mean that's the whole point. If parents aren't satisfied with the education their children are getting in the public school something needs to change. And that's a choice that that parent is making that they don't have now," said Tollison.

Tollison says for example in the graduating Class of 2017, 14,285 African American students took the ACT; the college entrance exam. He says only 285 students were deemed college and career ready with a score of 21. Tollison says this bill could help families access private schools that they otherwise couldn't afford. He contends the bulk of students will attend public schools. Democratic Senator David Blount of Jackson is on the education committee and doesn't support the measure.

"We can't simply take taxpayer money and use it to pay private school tuition. I respect any decision that any parent wants to make about where to send their children. But the state budget, public money, taxpayer money is for public schools," said Blount.

Senate Bill 2623 passed out of the education committee and goes to the full Senate.