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Mississippi can build on recent education wins this year

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

David Olson and Nathan Sanders

  • Mississippi is one of 15 states with a current ESA program and could be the eleventh state to offer universal school choice to all students within its borders.

In recent years, the effort to expand educational choice has gained significant momentum across the nation. Mississippi is now at the forefront of these discussions and is poised to embrace this important movement that elevates parental choice regarding their child’s education. Choice in education is not only a parental right, but it is the right strategy for improving educational outcomes.

Mississippi lawmakers have the chance to build on the success of their current limited education savings accounts (ESA) this legislative session and finally pass a universal ESA, giving all parents in the state the freedom to choose the education setting that best fits their child’s needs. Parents would be able to use the funds to pay for qualified educational expenses, including school tuition, tutoring, online education programs, therapies for students with special needs, textbooks, or other instructional materials, and sometimes save for college.

Mississippi is one of 15 states with a current ESA program and could be the eleventh state to offer universal school choice to all students within its borders. Last year, Arkansas passed a robust universal school choice program, the LEARNS Act, and this year Mississippi’s neighbors—Tennessee, Alabama, and Louisiana—are all eyeing the prize of improved education through their own ESA bills. This current legislative session offers an incredible opportunity for Mississippi to build upon the success of their “Mississippi Miracle”—the state’s recent literacy reforms— by allowing all families to choose a customized education that fits the needs of the student.

And it’s no wonder why states adopt these proven policies. First, they are overwhelmingly popular. According to polling conducted by Morning Consult and commissioned by EdChoice, roughly three-fourths of Americans support empowering parents through programs like education savings accounts. Among Mississippi parents, 76% of them support ESAs. More importantly, the data show they have a positive impact on all students— including those who participate in the choice program and those who remain in public schools. 

The benefits also have a positive impact on taxpayers, and society overall. Of the 187 empirical studies done exploring the impact of school choice programs on student performance, parent satisfaction, test scores, fiscal impact, civic engagement, and more, 84% found positive impacts, while only 6% were able to identify a negative impact. Education choice has shown to increase the likelihood of high school graduation and continued education for students, thus paving the way for a successful Mississippi. 

Research also shows that most studies have found students participating in such programs are more likely to graduate, enroll in college, and persist in college than their public-school peers. Notably, the most recent study of students in Florida’s low-income tax-credit scholarship program found student enrollment in two- and four-year colleges increased by 12% for elementary and middle school students and 19% for high schoolers compared to their peers who did not use the program. By empowering parents with an ESA, Mississippi can ensure more academic success and attainment for students.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves has cast a vision of “Mississippi Forever”—a new Mississippi where young people don’t have to move out of state for better schools or job opportunities. And with recent economic development announcements totaling almost $12B (that’s Billions with a “B”), the magnolia landscape is poised for new and unique opportunities. 

By embracing educational choice and passing the Mississippi Student Freedom Act, Mississippi has a chance to not only empower families and foster academic excellence, but also educate a skilled and empowered workforce to meet the rising needs of new employers choosing to make Mississippi their home. The path to a better Mississippi starts by empowering parents to choose the education that best fits their needs through a universal education savings account. Author Joel Barker once said that “Vision without action is merely a dream, and vision with action can change the world.” Today we have the vision, but we need action. And if we act, we will pave the way for a brighter future for all Mississippians, providing them the opportunity to stay, grow, and prosper in Mississippi… forever.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

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