Friday, March 1, 2024

MCPP: Has School Choice Finally Arrived?

This post is sponsored by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.  MCPP President Douglas Carswell authored the post. 

Conservatives have a massive majority in the Mississippi state legislature.  Are they about to deliver real conservative policy?  Or will we see the implementation of a soft-left, progressive-but-slower agenda to expand government?

When it comes to education, a blizzard of bills has just appeared which suggest that we might actually see something authentically conservative soon. 

The Mississippi Student Freedom bill (HB 1449) is the most exciting piece of legislation I have seen in the House in three years.

It would give families the right to have their child’s share of state education tax dollars paid into their child’s own Magnolia Scholarship Account.  Each family would then be free to allocate that money to meet their child’s needs.

Think how transformative it would be if every mom and dad were allocated $8,000 - $10,000 tax dollars to spend on their child’s education, be it public, private, charter school or home school? 

The Mississippi Student Freedom bill would establish a system of school choice similar to what Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has implemented over in Arkansas.   Eligibility would be phased in over time, but the end goal would be to allow universal school choice. 

“But what if lots of students from failing school districts tried to move to successful school districts?” some will ask.

The bill anticipates precisely this concern.  School districts will not be compelled to take kids from out of area if schools in those districts are already full. 

Unsurprisingly, various vested interests that currently get to spend your education tax dollars are bitterly opposed to allowing families to have control.  No prizes for guessing why.  Turkeys might not vote for Christmas, but that does not stop Christmas from happening. 

A second bill in the House, the Opportunity Scholarships bill (HB 1452) proposes a similar system of school choice, but one that would only be available for those in failing school districts.  Good, if not quite excellent. 

Then there is the INSPIRE bill (HB 1453), which offers a complete overhaul of our antiquated school funding system.  

Mississippi's current school funding formula, the MAEP, was created in 1997.  MAEP stands for Mississippi Adequate Education Program Funding, but it has proved to be anything but adequate.

The MAEP funding system is Soviet in its clunkiness and complexity.  Over the past quarter century, it has proved pretty useless at getting your tax dollars where they are supposed to go: the classroom.  We ought instead to have a formula that funds students, not a system.  

 This is precisely what the INSPIRE bill would do.  Every child in Mississippi would get an amount weighted to reflect their own needs. 

For years, policy makers have talked (and talked) about change.  Now, there is a plan to make it happen.

What is so significant about all these bills is that they have been sponsored by the House’s new education committee chairman, Rep. Rob Roberson.  He has made a remarkable start in the role. 

It is clear, too, that Speaker Jason White is also a driving force behind these excellent reforms.  If he is successful, Mr. White will transform our state’s education system for the better.  Every family in the state should rally behind him.  Indeed, every Mississippian who wants to see our state doing better should be with him 100%. 

Mississippi is now surrounded on every side by school choice states that have either implemented or are implementing these kinds of changes.  Here is our chance to be a leader, not a laggard. 

Mississippi voters have elected an overwhelmingly conservative legislature.  It ought to be possible for them to make these mainstream conservative policies happen.



Anonymous said...

I am grateful this long overdue, practical reform, which I have preached frequently in this forum, is closer to existence. Truly it alone has the ultimate power to save Jackson and MS.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard from Nancy Loome? Is she gonna be ok?

Anonymous said...

This is the only thing that can save Jackson.

Anonymous said...

This woulod be an unmitigated disaster. I hope they pass it so you self apponted education gurus can finally understand the damage of unintended consequences. Arkansas implemented it and the program has already created a financial nightmare for the state.

Anonymous said...

March 1, 2024 at 12:43 PM -

"Truly it alone has the ultimate power to save Jackson and MS"

I'm sincerely asking how...specifically. Also, wouldn't the current private schools have an issue accommodating a major increase in enrollment?

Anonymous said...

"The problem is underfunded schools. Let's make them more underfunded."

More public money into private accounts. Money we will never see again. Money that immediately stops circulating among the people and public services and goes straight into a private endowment. STUPID

Privatization of public services and private equity has hollowed out this country.

Man I can't wait to have prospective parents camping out to grab a slot at the academies.

I can't wait for all those who miss out on those slots to have their funds sucked up by diploma mills run by the cigar boys. What a great business opportunity. Give us your "Magnolia Money" and you get a diploma. What can go wrong?

F the MCPP. That's our real government. They just hand the bills from their rich overloads directly to their political lackeys.

Saltwaterpappy said...

The bills are unconstitutional. The Mississippi Constitution specifically prohibits using public money to fund private schools. The suggestion that the money can be placed into a special fund is just another form of money laundering. If the proponents of these bills are truly serious, they should seek to have the Mississippi Constitution amended to repeal the prohibition.

Anonymous said...

I agree this could be huge for education, but also huge for Jackson. The middle class in Jackson has been hollowed out because the price tag of private school leaves them no choice but to move. I would say the same is true in towns all over the state.

Anonymous said...

Call it what it is, tax payer funding choice.

Anonymous said...

And suddenly the Brett Favre School for Kids Who Don’t Read Good will have the largest endowment in the nation.

Anonymous said...

Private schools could accept or reject an applicant, the parent would likely owe a balance for private tuition and the parent, in many cases, would have to provide a bagged lunch or lunch money and rides to and from school.

I went to Catholic schools in LA, TX and OK: my upper-middle class parents never got any benefit for all the school/property taxes they paid.

Anonymous said...

306 read the bill. or just read carswell's description of the contents of the bill. no school would be required to take the students if they are already full. that would apply to private and parochial schools as well.

also, for a private/parochial school, the students would have to meet the same academic entrance requirements as the existing students have to meet - either pass certain educational measurment tests (or in a few cases, be able to run fast or jump high or kick or whatever).

that's not the issue though. the goal of government should be to educate its citizenary; the goal is not how the education is provided which is what those opposed to these pieces of legislation would have one to believe based on their arguments.

hell, i wish that all of the great schools would have students knocking at their doors wanting to get in, be they private/parochial, clinton, rankin, madison or wherever in this metro area. and with the possibility of getting out of their zip code confinement, that should be the result. at that point,JPS would either have to close its doors or maybe do what it should have been doing for the past thirty years, cleaning up its act and actually providing a quality education with the massive amount of tax dollars it has been receiving (more tax dollars per student than any other district in the state, and with the exception of one or two of the 150 districts, more by a multiple)

Anonymous said...

No 3:49, it is parents utilizing taxpayer dollars for choice. It is parents having the opportunity to choose where their children go to school rather than the tax receiver (government) deciding.

Most all of us are paying taxes in some form or other, many in many forms, that goes to fund the process of the government providing education for the state's children. What difference to the taxpayer does it matter where these children that are of k-12 age get that education? Me as a taxpayer without children in school anymore - I don't care, other than wanting to see the tax dollars I pay that are allocated to education being used wisely and providing a quality education for the children of my state.

While it is a noble goal of government to claim one of its core functions is to provide an education for its citizens, nowhere in that function do I find that it specifies that it is the responsibility of the government to actually provide the education directly. Why not let others join is, as they have for the past century (with taxpayers paying their taxes and paying private entities to educate their kids) just under a different model?

Anonymous said...

just another welfare type handout.

Anonymous said...

A 'welfare handout' to the right people is, by definition, not a 'welfare handout'!

Anonymous said...

A list of GOP/SuperTalk standard talking points. Leadership probably found a way for a state agency to sponsor the post.

We can figure out how to calculate 7% sales tax on most items, 5% tax on automobiles, 0% tax on Rx and 0% tax on selected items one weekend a month; we can figure out to calculate MAEP. The state has computers. Just because Phillip Gunn didn’t understand it, or so he claimed, doesn’t make it unreasonable to calculate. But, if there is a need to develop a new formula, ok - just don’t use it as an excuse to gut school funding.

I’ve had the opportunity to observe selected operations in a couple dozen or more Mississippi school districts. To varying degrees, most have at least some fat that could be trimmed, but…

The number one problem is lack of qualified staff - by far. School districts are complicated operations. Maybe they shouldn’t be, but they are. And state and federal regulations are the major contributors to that complexity. For example, the most recent funding increase by the state must be tracked separately to prove it’s not paying administrators’ raises. That increases reporting requirements on top of being petty and micromanagement.

But back to staffing. Perhaps if we paid salaries to compete with private sector jobs, schools could compete for more qualified applicants. If one has the ability to excel in math or science, exactly what is the incentive to accept teacher pay vs life as an engineer, for example? I know kids who took a one year community college program and started at a higher salary than many principals make.

A failing school district can receive a lot of federal money to improve instruction, but how effective is training on long-term substitutes and an ever changing staff?

The US Constitution’s 14th Amendment addresses equal protection. If Biloxi wants artificial turf, they can dedicate one mill of tax to fund it. If Mound Bayou wants to fix leaky roofs, it’s a mathematical impossibility to levy enough tax to fund. One purpose of MAEP was to help with that, at least to a degree. Many districts will never build another school - it is beyond their means.

Oh, did you catch that phrase about schools accepting vouchers for out of district students, subject to acceptance? That would probably include some sort of requirements to limit access for minorities. And if you say, “we can take 50 students from failing school district X,” what is the message to the remaking students in that district, “go to hell?” And, if the flexibility the state allows to charter schools is so wonderful, why don’t you relax rules to all schools?

The fact that funding is federal certainly doesn’t excuse waste, but many ancillary positions are federally funded and eliminating those positions would make not make a significant difference on the need for state and local funding.

Compare the number of supervisory personnel in the private sector to the number in schools. A principal and assistant to supervise 50 teachers, 10 assistants, three custodians and three clerical staff; in the corporate would, there would be close to a dozen “vice-presidents in charge of whatever.”

Do a lot of public schools have a lot of serious problems? Yes they do. But, they need real solutions and support, not abandonment.

Anonymous said...

According to experts if you want your kids to get a good education, you leave Mississippi .

Anonymous said...

lf the State pays for every student at Prep @ $10,000 each, how much tax money is that?

Laura Ingles said...

"I went to Catholic schools in LA, TX and OK: my upper-middle class parents never got any benefit for all the school/property taxes they paid."

I am sorry that all your Catholic education left you so ignorant.

Even people with no children benefit from the school/property taxes they pay. Suppose your upper-middle class parents had lived in states where there were none of those taxes and there were no schools.

Imagine the workforce. Imagine the mentality of a community full of people who could not spell, read or write and could not multiply 6 x 5. Imagine the standards of living, the crime.

Anonymous said...

Yall are funny. Pick up the phone and call Prep. Ask them how much current tuition is and how much it’ll be next year once this voucher program hits. Now do that with all of the private schools. The ones that raise tuition by the voucher amount don’t want your kids. If you couldn’t afford private school from the “good private schools” then you still won’t be able to afford it. On the other hand, schools like Hartfield, MRA etc (where you go for the experience and not the education) will want to keep the tuition increases at a minimum in order to capture this new market. No hate to those schools, they serve their purpose for the new money to have a private school experience but they struggle to even match their local public schools in education. Those private schools that only modestly increase their tuition are serving their business model. If you want to fix what’s broken, only the kids from failing districts need that voucher money. Full stop. And allowing the transfer to other public districts is asinine. Can you imagine Madison Central being required to take on a bunch of JPS or Canton kids “if space allows”? What’s the formula to determine if a school has space? You’re just asking for chaos. Vouchers for failing districts only and don’t make my local school, which is doing everything right, be required to take a bus loads of discipline, IEP toting kids from some of the worst zip codes in the country.

Furthermore, if location no longer determines where your kids go to school, what do you think that’s going to do to local property values? Madison’s values are based on safety and schools. Remove the schools from the formula and where does that leave value? How is it calculated now? Interesting times to be a tax assessor.

Anonymous said...

I’m hearing two things. 1. Proponents want to help kids in failing districts (school choice PR), but 2. Private schools don’t have to take those kids or either those kids would not qualify to attend private schools (5:44 & 6:06). I’m confused on the endgame of school choice.

Anonymous said...

I will not have my tax dollars which are allocated to education, given back to any individual for any purpose.

Some have been trying to undermine public education since it was made a cabinet level post in the 1960’s, despite having been an administrative post in the federal government since shortly after the civil war about a hundred years before.

So who’s been opposed to quality public education since it’s elevation to a cabinet level post?

And who are the biggest proponents of the diversion of public funds to fund private enterprises (directly)?

And who are the proponets of effectively defunding public education by financing private enterprises with public funds?

Who are these socialists?

Anonymous said...

"Some have been trying to undermine public education since it was made a cabinet level post in the 1960’s, despite having been an administrative post in the federal government since shortly after the civil war about a hundred years before."

Why can't you be truthful? That educational administrative post was dissolved the next year. It didn't last, but one year.

The federal government has no business being involved in education. That function should belong to the states, and the states should delegate the responsibility to the counties.

The mess we have now was started by Jimmy Carter. His purpose was to place the U.S. under United Nation guidelines. The truth is available, but you have to search for it.

Anonymous said...

9:03 - There's a fallacy in the assumption that since the position was created, it therefore was needed, useful and beneficial to society.

"I will not have my tax dollars which are allocated to education, given back to any individual for any purpose."

So, what will you do other than throw a little hissy fit? Do you mind if some of us watch?

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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