School choice bills die in Mississippi House

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Legislation proposed by Gov. Phil Bryant that would provide scholarships for students to attend private schools died Thursday in the Mississippi House.
House Education Chair John Moore, R-Brandon, opted not to bring it up for consideration. Thursday was the deadline to pass legislation out of the originating chamber.
Other controversial education proposals also died Thursday without a vote, including a bill to provide public funds for special education students to attend private schools and a proposal to allow local boards of supervisors or municipal boards to have veto authority over the budgets developed by school boards.
House Education Chair John Moore, R-Brandon, said the Legislature is dealing with numerous major education bills, including charter schools, and that the proposals that died Thursday can be considered in later sessions.
“Some of them need more work,” Moore conceded. “If they were good proposals this year, they will be next year.”
Under the scholarship proposal, people and corporations could donate to a fund to establish the scholarships and receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit.
Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, and others argued the legislation would be taking money out of the state treasury to pay for private school tuition. The governor said children in poor-performing school districts should be given other educational options.
Bryant also proposed allowing students to cross district lines to attend school. That proposal died earlier in the session.
A bill that passed the House Thursday would establish a pre-kindergarten program that would be overseen by the state Department of Education. The program would establish collaborations between local school districts, private day cares and non profit groups to develop pre-K programs.
The House bill contemplates $2 million for the program. A bill that passed the Senate earlier would allocate $8 million for the program the first year and grow to $34 million by phase three.
The differences between the House and Senate bills will have to be worked out in the coming weeks.

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