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House advances bill that would establish close study of universal school vouchers

Two House committees passed a bill that would establish a committee to study the feasibility of creating an expansive program to provide public funds for students to attend private schools.

House Education Committee Chairman Rob Roberson, who filed the legislation that would initially have created a universal school voucher program, said earlier this session that he just wanted to “start a conversation” on the controversial issue. Several advocacy groups are loudly championing universal voucher expansion this year, while multiple pro-public education groups are strongly opposing it.

Roberson’s original bill was amended in the House Education Committee to not create the program, but instead establish a study committee that would “determine the feasibility of establishing and administering universal education scholarship accounts” and report those findings to the 2025 Legislature. A House Appropriations Committee also passed the amended bill on Tuesday, advancing it to the full House chamber for consideration.

Sources close to House leadership told Mississippi Today on Tuesday that the bill is expected to be recommitted to committee in coming days, which would effectively kill the legislation. That action, however, would require a majority vote of the House chamber.

READ MORE: House Republican leadership files school voucher bills

The study commission would consist of three members appointed by the governor and two each by the speaker and lieutenant governor. Those appointments will include the chairs of the House and Senate Education committees, a local school superintendent, a representative of a private school and a member of the business community.

The Mississippi Constitution states that no public funds can go to a school “not conducted as a free public school.” A case is pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of providing $10 million to private school to deal with COVID-19 issues.

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