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Do Mississippians Have School Choice?

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A couple school districts have been in the news recently for new policies they have instituted prohibiting any student from transferring out of the district; except for very rare circumstances. Many parents have been upset about the new policy and the requirement that their children change schools.

Those parents may have chosen a different school district for several reasons such as location, school size, a special program, etc. But the specific reason is not important. What is important is that the parents believed this other school provided the best education for their child. That is the direction we should be moving toward as a state.

But they no longer have that choice and there is nothing they can do, except move. And the school district is certainly within their right to block transfers.

We have made some progress, but as has been displayed pretty clearly, the option to choose the best school for your child is still very limited in Mississippi.

Here is a look at the school choice policies in place in Mississippi:

Charter Schools: Public charter schools have been available in Mississippi for two years. Based on model legislation developed out of best practices from around the country, Mississippi has a rigorous and accountable process to ensure that only the highest quality charter schools will be authorized. There are currently three schools available in Jackson, with a fourth set to open this fall. Charter school applicants in school districts rated D and F can apply directly to the State Authorizing Board for approval and charter schools are open to any student in the district, or any student who attends a district rated C, D, or F. You can learn more here.

Dyslexia Scholarship: Mississippi’s first private school choice program, the Dyslexia Scholarship, was established in 2012. Under this program, students who have been screened properly and diagnosed with dyslexia are eligible for a voucher in an amount equal to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program base student cost, which is around $5,000. Students are currently using these scholarships to attend Magnolia Speech School, New Summit School, North New Summit School, The 3-D School, and The TIDE School. You can learn more here.

Education Scholarship Account: The Special Needs ESA program was established in 2015, and expanded in 2016, to provide children with special needs an opportunity to attend a private school if they are not being well-served in their current educational setting. This program is truly innovative in treating students as individuals with unique needs and equipping parents with the tools to help them meet those needs. Funds can be used on a variety of educational expenses, including private school tuition and fees, therapy, tutoring, etc. You can learn more here.

Homeschooling: Mississippi has some of the most parent friendly homeschool laws in the country with minimal amount of regulation from the state. You can learn more here.

Public School Open Enrollment: Students wishing to attend another school district can do so, but need approval from both the ‘sending’ or home district and the ‘receiving’ district.

Virtual School: The Mississippi Virtual Public School offers a rigorous online curriculum to students in 6-12. Participation in this program is determine by each district. Students are eligible to take two online courses per year. Though limited, this school has been a very popular option for families in Mississippi. You can learn more here.

If you would like to see Mississippi expand school choice options to every child in the state, please Join The Movement and get involved today!