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A good week for education reform.  Here’s why:


This has been a good week for education reform in Mississippi.  Our lawmakers might not agree on much, but last Saturday, they finally voted to replace the old education funding formula with the new Mississippi Student Funding Formula. 

Under the old funding formula, your tax dollars were spent in the interests of the education bureaucrats.  Local administrators were guaranteed the same amount of revenue even when they lost students or underperformed. 

Mississippi will now fund students, not a system.  Every student will now get a base amount of $6,695, on top of which they will then receive additional amounts based on their own individual circumstances.

This is a major win for Speaker Jason White and Chairman of the House Education Committee, Rob Roberson, as well as for Jansen Owen and Kent McCarty.  The bill would not have passed without a strong lead from the Governor, Tate Reeves, as well. 

Now that Mississippi will personalize the amount of funding each student gets, the money might just start to follow the student.

Will this happen?  Thanks to a ruling by the Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday, one of the key objections against it happening has been removed.

Lawmakers opposed to school choice in our state often suggest that while they personally might agree with school choice, sadly, you can’t put government money into private schools. 

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling shows this excuse to be bunkum.

During Covid, when large sums of federal money were provided to Mississippi, our state legislature, in turn, authorized a state agency to distribute some of those funds to private schools for infrastructure improvement.

This prompted an activist group, Parents for Public Schools, to challenge allocating public money to private schools as unconstitutional.  Had Parents for Public Schools been successful, we might have found ourselves in a situation now where public dollars could not follow a student into the private sector. 

Thursday’s ruling is a defeat not just for anti-school choice activists.  It means that those in the legislature looking for a ready-made excuse not to support school choice can no longer hide behind the claim that school choice is unconstitutional.

As our legal division, the Mississippi Justice Institute argued when we filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief, alongside the Institute for Justice, the Mississippi Constitution does not prevent school choice.

You might have noticed that despite there being a supposedly conservative majority in our state legislature, not a great deal of conservative legislation was passed this session.

A bill to tackle DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) dogma in our public universities was killed in committee.  Efforts to restore the Right of Initiative fizzled out, as did proposals to remove restrictive laws that intentionally limit the number of health care providers. 

Our lawmakers weren’t even prepared to pass a law that might have allowed Mississippians to buy wine online.  They only just managed to pass the SAFER Act to protect women’s rights at the eleventh hour. 

The forces of do-nothing intransigence are powerful.  But as the success of education funding reform shows, inertia can be overcome. 

When Speaker White played hardball and Governor Reeves gave a clear lead, the intransigent folded.  Maybe this is the way to achieve change? 

Mississippi desperately needs change.  Reformers need to be prepared to ruffle a few feathers in order to achieve it.

Douglas Carswell is the President & CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

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