Friday, June 28, 2024

MCPP: When Will Mississippi See School Choice?

Mississippi is almost surrounded by states that have school choice. Why don’t we?

Last week Governor Jeff Landry of Louisiana signed into law the Gator Scholarship program. From 2025, Louisiana families can receive state funds to pay for educational expenses to meet their child’s individual needs.

Alabama passed similar legislation a few months ago. Arkansas did something similar in 2023.

In Mississippi, nothing. Why?

It is not as if Mississippi doesn’t have a conservative majority. Conservatives have been in charge of the Mississippi House, Senate and Governor's mansion since 2012.

Conservatives in Alabama and Arkansas have had control for about the same length of time as in our state. Somehow, they seem to have done something with it.

Louisiana conservatives have achieved more school choice in 12 months than Mississippi conservatives have managed in 12 years. Gov Landry only won back the Governor’s Mansion last year and he signed school choice into law last week.

A major part of the problem is that many leaders in Mississippi refuse to see the need for reform. They want to believe that education standards are improving and that there’s just not much need to change.

Here’s why they are wrong:

• 1 in 4 school children in our state are chronically absent. That’s 108,310 children in 2022-23, up dramatically from 70,275 in 2016-17. If Mississippi education is as good as they say it is, why are so many kids not showing up?

• 8 out of 10 eighth grade kids in Mississippi were not proficient in math in 2022.

• Almost 7 in 10 fourth grade kids in Mississippi were not proficient in reading in 2022.

How many Mississippi politicians would be willing to send their kids to a school with those standards?

• Almost 4 in 10 fourth graders in 2022 did not even reach the basic reading standard. Let’s quit pretending things are fine when our current system is unable to teach ten year olds the basics of reading.

Reform is difficult. If you are a conservative, overhauling anything involving the public sector means stirring up a hornet’s nest of opposition. It’s easier to buddy up to the absurdly misnamed “Parent’s Campaign” and defend the status quo. I get all that.

Here’s why Mississippi conservatives absolutely have to use the majority they have to achieve school choice.

Over the past thirty years, we have seen the ideological takeover of much of America by the far left. If you had told me at the time of the Iraq war or even when Obama was in the White House that American students would be protesting in support of Hamas in 2024, I would not have believed you. Today it happens frequently. A generation ago, corporate America did not demand to know your preferred pronouns. Today you can hardly apply for a job at a big firm without doing so. Where do you think this ideological extremism came from? It has been made possible by the influence of critical theory ideologues on our education system. Of course, not every school is a hotbed of ‘woke’ intersectional ideology. But the only way to stop the advance of ‘woke’ ideology in America is to give parents back control over their child’s education.

The lesson of the past 30 years is that unless conservative America has a plan to take back control of the education system, the left will win. It is not enough to run for office as a conservative because you happen to hunt or have the right bumper stickers on your truck.

Conservatives in office who do nothing to advance school choice are assisting, however unwittingly, the radical left in their capture of this country.

We cannot afford another decade of wasted opportunities to achieve school choice.

Douglas Carswell is the President & CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.  Mr. Carswell authored and sponsored this post.  


Anonymous said...

AGAIN! "proficient" as defined by this test is the highest possible score , the bell curve is pretty normal otherwise......

saying 40 percent of our 4th graders cannot read at a basic level is total horseshit

I take no political sides and our education system does need work but this is just propaganda for school choice.

If he tried to publish this in an academic circle it would undoubtedly get popped as research misconduct

Anonymous said...

It's not the schools people, it's the parents of the students.

Anonymous said...

Let's abolish all public K-12 schools in Mississippi and let the free market decide who can survive. Create vouchers for every student, including vouchers for transportation and extra-curricular activities. Require every private/charter school that accepts the vouchers to expand as necessary to handle to influx of students.

Because the children of our state must be educated.

Obviously, there are severe issues in public education. But allowing some select children (= affluent, mostly white) the privilege of attending JPrep, for example, on the government dime, while telling the masses to deal with a poor public school is just not right. If you have the answers to fix public schools, by all means, let privatization or whatever means necessary take them over and fix them. (You own the Mississippi Legislature - you can certainly get it done) But to create a mechanism just to benefit the elite and leave the rest to languish is not an acceptable option.

Anonymous said...

School choice is driven by white Republicans who do not want their children to go to school with minority children.

Anonymous said...


I get your point, but about 3 in 4 3rd graders passed the reading gateway on the first try this year. That's not great. That test is not a stiff hurdle and passing really does mean basic proficiency in the every day sense of the word.

That maybe doesn't sound so bad (although it sounds pretty bad to me), but if you look at the data broken out by school, you see it's much, much worse than that. You have schools where only 1 in 5 students are able to read at a basic level in third grade. Those children deserve the opportunity to be in a better school, even if their parents can't afford private school tuition. Certainly a lot of those kids don't have much of a chance because of their home life, but plenty of those kids that are failing could be educated if we would give them a chance to get into a decent educational setting.

Anonymous said...

I am in favor of school choice.

I am not in favor of subsidizing private school tuition for people that can otherwise afford it.

Anonymous said...

I just want a government voucher to pay for my children to go to private school. And this excellent independent research organization agrees with me.

Anonymous said...

I won an award in 1st grade for reading the most books because my mom helped me practice and took me to the library frequently. In third grade my Catholic school tested out at 8th grade reading level for 3rd grade, according to our teachers.

Ben Carson, a famous Black Brain Surgeon, attributes part of his success to his mother encouraging him to read many books as a boy.

Anonymous said...

@ 2:42. Your racism is showing. However, its not about minority children, its about children that are not taught at home basic courtesy and their sorry parents dont care about their kids education. The families for school choice, dont want to be brought down by lack of parenting. You can KMA

Anonymous said...

When Will Mississippi See School Choice?

A better question is 'When will Mississippi figure out that MCPP has nothing to do with public policy?'

Anonymous said...


"I am not in favor of subsidizing private school tuition for people that can otherwise afford it."

Got news for you - you already do with your property taxes. Just check out the turnaround at hundreds of public schools in MS, and you'll see thousands of kids being picked up in a Lexus, BMW, Cadillac, or an $80,000 truck of some sort. Public education in general is meant to fleece the taxpayer under the guise of "helping the children". Complete scam. The premise on this subject should be: If you can't afford to have children, don't.

Some are seriously talking about abolishing the Department of Education altogether because it's nowhere in the Constitution, and never will be. Now with the SCOTUS Jarkesy ruling, it might make sense to everyone that administrative bureaucracies need to vanish and give those tax dollars back to citizens to do with as they please - especially if they want to take care of their children.

Anonymous said...

The Mississippi legislative majority gets their backing from people whose children or grandchildren are already in a private or church supported school unless they live in a town or city where there are few children of color.

For example, the city of Madison is 77% white. Tupelo is 62% white. Oxford is 67%, Starkville is 97% white. Biloxi is 65% white and Gulfport is 51%. Hattiesburg doesn't have a white majority but the white students at Southern are 58.9% of the total student body.

Mississippi is 63.7% white with Black being only 27.2% and the rest mixed race.

The racism is here is really bizarre when you start to do a deep dive into criminal activity. Whites have a lower arrest rate even though Blacks are far more likely to be victims of crime.

If you go to a prison in a State with a small population of blacks, you see that whites commit crimes too. How many times were committed by a few white JJ wrote about before they were finally arrested? Seems to me, I remember them committing quite a few as teens who vandalized or stole more than once.

School choice isn't about race now really. It's about religious indoctrination. We just cannot let the New Testament be our guide. Jesus was far too liberal and didn't think well of the rich who were blind to the suffering of others. Jesus wasn't crucified by the poor and powerless...just betrayed by one of them who sought his own self interests.

the issue is obvious said...

It's not an education problem or a choice problem, it's a parent problem. If you looked at school districts with the most single parent households, you likely find that kids in those school districts are failing at high rate.

Anonymous said...

I get it. You take care of your business. You pay your bills. You train your children to respect others. You expect your children to earn their own way, just as you did. You are insulted by those who don't take care of their business. I understand.


You don't and will not live completely insulated from those who make poorer choices. It is in your best interests, as well as theirs, for you to see that all children are trained to some level of responsibility and can be productive in the workforce. For those children with poor home situations, it will be hard; in some cases impossible. But you can't give up on them. As a teacher, I didn't; because you never knew which ones will surprise you and make it. Therefore, you must try your best for every one of them.

Generally, when children first arrive at school, they are full of excitement and wonder. Granted, some from the worst home situations may already be cynical and incorrigible, but typically that is rare in Kindergarten. If not nurtured, some of those children grow to be the criminals society has to deal with on a daily basis. Wouldn't it be in everyone's best interest to try everything possible to reach them?

When you just want to "get your share" and isolate in your private school and gated community, are you just saying, "go to hell" to everyone else? Private schools and gated communities have their place; don't take this as an indictment on them. But, there must be a plan for the masses. And, I'll admit the current model of public education is not equipped to deal with the multifold issues of the masses. I cannot imagine the issues some students face. (I was supposed to motivate a student to be interested in the Pythagorean Theorem, while she was agonizing over sexual abuse at home? That's the public schools, folks.)

An overhaul is past due; there has to be a better way of doing business. But that will take not only innovative ideas, but new legislation and perhaps a reshaping our basic rights. However, those stuck in public schools, regardless of the reason, cannot be just thrown away-and throwing them away seems to be the overwhelming sentiment of many voucher proponents.

Anonymous said...

Douglas, submit a valid independent study of a school choice model that is actually working in the U.S. Otherwise, you are waisting our time.

Anonymous said...

We do not have a school problem, we have a moral issue, the same can be said for Jackson's crime rate, it all goes back to morals that are taught (and not taught) in the home/family.

Anonymous said...

If this ever becomes reality, parental involvement must be required along with vouchers. All parents must be better for their children. It all starts here.

Anonymous said...

@5:02, If you teach your children (if you have one or more) to debate by saying “kiss my ass,” I’m sure they will be just as successful as you. Did you learn that in private school?

Anonymous said...

"I just want a government voucher to pay for my children to go to private school. And this excellent independent research organization agrees with me."
June 28, 2024 at 3:19 PM

If you really want to DESTROY Mississippi's excellent private school network (and the very-nice culture which has evolved, over the three generations during which it's been possible for Mississippians to send their kids to private day schools), then those vouchers are a sure-fire way to attain your goal.

The primary difference between public and private schools, is THE QUALITY OF THE STUDENTS. That old bromide, "Only takes one bad apple, to ruin the whole barrel", certainly applies to schools. DOWNWARD ASSIMILATION is a big problem, in schools from which Bad Apples cannot be culled (public schools, mostly...). What you're asking for, is easy access to private schools, for children from feckless families who produced children despite being unable to fund their education.

The difference in ATTITUDES TOWARD LEARNING, between children in public vs private schools, is fairly pronounced. Attitudes toward violence and forms of dissipation, are also noticeable. It's taken three generations, for the 'Private Day School Culture' to overcome the cultural norms which USED TO prevail in Mississippi's (all-white) public schools. Without the mean White Trash skewing behavioral norms, privately-educated Mississippi kids have become really, really NICE.

You're wanting that mean white trash to be able to get at the nice kids, again. (and that's just the beginning)

With public monies in-play, bureaucrats will have more say in how private schools do things.

And how long will it be, until laws are tweaked, or precedents are set by courts, making it difficult or impossible for private schools to not accept vouchers? If that happens, there will be no refuge, except to homeshool, or to MOVE TO ANOTHER STATE, far, far from Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

So in Florida they have had competition for the lowest performing students since 2003 as an earlier version of the voucher program as I understand it was triggered by a failing school district. The threat of losing per-child funding in those low performing districts was shown over 15 years to actually induce better performance in the school district. Why, well it is due to the same competitive forces at work in the rest of the economy.

Imagine for a moment if there was only UMMC and nothing else for hospital services and though it received a mix of relatively fixed public funds and private funds people zoned were not allowed to travel to another county for hospital services and take their portion of public funding with them. But that isn't the case, we have private-public competition amongst hospitals, and they are funded by... a mix of public (Grants, Medicaid, & Medicare) and private funds.

The competition drives each hospital to be better, public or private.

Anonymous said...

Y'all need to tell Jason White what you think about school choice. He says everybody's begging for it. The speaker says he wants to cut taxes, but these vouchers to pay tuition for rich kids (who are already in private school) are costing other states a boatload - hundreds of millions. What's he going to cut to pay for vouchers? We'll never get another road paved. Our taxes will go up to help pay for vouchers, instead of down.

Anonymous said...

So about 50,800 children are currently in private schools in MS, which is 10% of children, tracking with 10% nationwide. If we are talking about $6000 state funding level vouchers per child the only extra budget cost to the state are those 10%, equal to $305 Million per year, as funding would just follow the student. But what is the potential loss if the families behind those 10% decide instead of setting up their household in Mississippi they should set up in Florida or elsewhere?

The total number of families potentially at risk would be 50,800 / (2.5 children per family) x (50 total earning years / 15 school age years) = 67,700 families. The total maximum cost is $305 million a year or $4500 per year per each of these 67,700 families currently enrolled in private school who over the long term might look to another state to start a household after college once this inter-state competition kicks off.

In a long-run analysis, Mississippi will loose much more personal and business tax revenue than the $4500 per year per family budget cost of making the state an attractive place to stay for independent minded families. Of course this completely leaves on the table educational quality improvements from competition. This is the same incremental math that goes on behind economic development investments.

Municipalities would also fair better if the 10% of students attended private schools increased to say 15% as the fixed portion of the school funding from property taxes would generate more spending per student (in the classrooms) who stayed in established city schools. As a state, we might be in play for more small business investment as independent minded entrepreneurs give the state a look for its lower energy costs and cheaper properties.

Anonymous said...

As a parent of two children, in a two-parent, lower middle class Christian family, who struggled and sacrificed to send them to a school with good discipline, high academics, and Christian values (Gospel centered, mission oriented, selfless giving), I take exception to many uninformed comments about how vouchers would not help Mississippi.
Many people don't want Christian values taught in public school. They also don't want high standards and accountability in public schools, and they use excuses to bring all student learning down to the least common denominator in my experience. In public schools bullying is accepted, and even encouraged as a rite of passage--akin to hazing...On the rare occasions when their disruptive and under-performing children actually face consequences of discipline or grades, parents get very vocal, but not to get their children to do better. And the administration backs parents far more often than they do GOOD teachers.
So, what do parents who genuinely want their children to have a chance at success do? If they aren't amongst the rich that everyone seems to think makes up the private school population, they scrimp, they save, they sacrifice, and they find the best that they can afford. And all-the-time, they watch their tax dollars go to schools, administrations, children, and parents who don't hold high standards, discipline, and high expectations in much regard. Imagine if regular people who want better for their children but are hamstrung by State laws had their tax dollars going to pay for their kid's education at a school with high standards, values, and expectations? That is what the real people (not the imaginary millionaires being discussed here) would benefit from.
In our house, we have no tv, don't go on vacations to the beach, don't have expensive I-phones and technology that even poor people seem to have, we don't eat out, we share one vehicle, and we did all this and so much more so that we are able to give our children a good education in a setting where they won't be bullied (bullies are asked to leave the school if they can't act better), where academic and performance expectations are high, and where teachers AND administrators know and care about all of the students. They didn't go to babysitting camp everyday--they learned critical and analytical thinking. It has been hard sometimes, knowing that we could have had lots of fun, going on family vacations, playing with new technology, driving nice cars, if we would have just lowered our standards and sent our children to schools in an A rated school district that is rife with bullying, drugs, underage sex, and violence problems that are considered the norm in public schools. It has been described to me by a public school administrator (whose child is in private school) as "really not that bad compared to school districts like Jackson, especially if you can get your child into X program, where they will be shielded from some of that." What a statement.
So, yes, I am for vouchers--that which would allow parents to try to find the BEST situation for their child. No one said vouchers couldn't be used for public schools—if they are good, then people will want their children there. Teachers will go where the jobs are. If vouchers provide mobility for students, then it certainly provides mobility for teachers--good ones, that is. As schools grow, they would need more teachers. As other schools continue to fail students and good teachers will also go.
Vouchers should really be a cautionary tale for poor administration and poor parental engagement. When a school makes it clear that they don't want parental interference ("engagement/participation") then you get Mississippi public schools. Public schools don't really want parents involved. Over time, school vouchers (public or private) would force all schools to be better.

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