School choice for me, but not for thee?

By Mississippi Center for Public Policy
May 1, 2024

Ever wondered why there has been so little progress towards school choice in Mississippi? 

In a recent radio interview, Mississippi state Senator David Blount was asked by Paul Gallo if he supported school choice.  Senator Blount, who is Vice Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, made it clear he was against school choice. 

Blount criticised “taking taxpayer money and giving it to private schools”. 

Except it seems as if Senator Blount might have sent his own kids to private school. 

Corey DeAngelis, a school choice campaigner, picked up on Senator Blount’s comments, tweeting that Senator Blount sent his own kids to private school. 

If true, it means that Senator Blount’s position is to deny to other families in Hinds County, the district he represents, the school choice opportunities he had. 

It’s never right to criticise a politician over where they send their child to school.  We should support the right of every parent to seek the best for their kids.  In fact, it is great when parents, including state Senators, have those opportunities.  But those opportunities should be available for everyone.

Senator Blount makes it sound as though tax dollars belong to school boards.  Tax dollars belong to the taxpayer.  Tax dollars are there to provide children with an education. 

Why not allow Mississippi families to allocate their portion of education tax dollars to a school that best meets their needs?  This is what now happens in a growing number of US states.  Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and – hopefully – Louisiana now all allow families to allocate their share to state education tax dollars to a school of their choice.

The idea that tax dollars must only be spent on public education providers is nonsense.  Public dollars get spent at private institutions when it comes to Head Start, Pell grants, and social security.  If we adopted Senator Blount’s logic, we would force low-income families to spend their food stamps at government grocery stores. 

Now are you starting to see why Mississippi has made so little progress towards school choice?

In a rock solidly conservative state, we somehow manage to end up with a Vice Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, David Blount, adamantly against school choice.  Why?  How does someone so opposed to the conservative position on education get appointed to that position? 

Seeing how Senator Blount responded to Corey, it strikes that perhaps those opposed to school choice just aren’t that accustomed to having to defend their opposition to change. They should get accustomed.  

Momentum for school choice in our state is only going to grow.  Mississippi will soon be surrounded by states that allow families control over their education tax dollars.  School choice is THE flagship policy that unites every wing of the conservative movement.

In this exchange between Senator Blount and Corey DeAngelis, we see the battle lines of the future being drawn.  In the coming months, it will take a very brave, or very foolish, lawmaker to oppose school choice if it turns out that they themselves sent their kids to private school.

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


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