SB 2594: Kick hundreds of students out of the ESA program

By Mississippi Center for Public Policy
February 26, 2020

Senate Bill 2594, sponsored by Sen. Dennis DeBar, would gut the state’s Education Scholarship Account and kick hundreds of students out of the program. 

In 2015, Mississippi became just the third state in the nation to adopt ESAs. This is an innovative approach to education that allows parents to select the best educational setting, rather than just a private school, for their children. 

With an ESA, parents are able to use the funds that would otherwise be spent on public education to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, therapy, textbooks, online classes, and other educational services. With this program, parents are able to truly customize and create a specific education for their children based on their needs. And by every measure of significance, the program has been wildly popular. Hundreds of families are on the wait list. A 2018 review of the program showed 91 percent satisfaction by parents of ESA students. 

ESAs have also brought a new meaning to accountability in education. Rather than test scores or government oversight that provide parents with little ability to do anything with the information they receive, parents now have the ability to evaluate the education their child is receiving and make the decision on whether they would like to continue with the current educational setting or make a different choice. 

But SB 2594, a bill to extend the repealer on the ESA, would kick hundreds of families out of the small program and likely derail it to the point that it can never grow and only serve a few students in a public school-lite setting. 

The proposed legislation would change the definition of “eligible school” to a state-accredited special purpose school, an accredited online learning program, or a private school with a special purpose program, cutting current options by more than half. Families who live near the state lines and have found a school in another state because there is not one nearby would also be kicked out of the program. The changes would also require private schools to administer testing for participating students, rather than trusting parents to make these decisions.

Last year, a clean bill to extend the repealer passed the Senate, but was never considered in the House.

MCPP has reviewed this legislation and finds that it violates our principles and therefore must be opposed.  

Read SB 2594. 

Track the status of this and all bills in our legislative tracker.


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