Gov. Phil Bryant promotes school choice

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Gov. Phil Bryant promotes school choice, including scholarships for low income students to attend private schools, in his education proposal that was released Friday.

Bryant, speaking at Northwest Rankin High School to students, teachers and others from throughout the state interested in his proposal, said education must be improved in Mississippi. The proposal, he conceded, will be thoroughly debated during the 2013 session, and he said he welcomes other ideas that canadvance Mississippi’s educational achievements.

“Mississippi’s children are struggling, and we have a tremendous opportunity to build a better future by investing ourselves in improving our education system,” he said, adding his proposal would cost $26 million – a relative small amount in an overall state budget of $5 billion.

It includes many provisions he has discussed before, such as teacher merit pay, recruiting top academic performers to the teaching profession and putting programs in place to try to ensure students entering the fourth grade are reading on grade level.

The school choice component, perhaps the most controversial, included:

* Allowing more charter schools, though, he highlighted their need in areas where the traditional public schools are struggling.

* Developing a program to provide tax credits to people or businesses that donate funds for students in poor performing school districts to attend private schools.

* Allowing students to attend school outside of the district where they live within certain guidelines developed by the state Board of Education.