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Lawmakers unlikely to vote on private school money extension

Mississippi lawmakers are unlikely to vote this year to extend public subsidies for some special education students who attend private schools.

Posted: Mar 5, 2019 9:52 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers are unlikely to vote this year to extend public subsidies for some special education students who attend private schools.

House Education Committee Chairman Richard Bennett, a Long Beach Republican, said Monday that he intends to kill Senate Bill 2675. The House Education Committee must vote to advance the bill to the full House before a Tuesday deadline or it will die.

The program lasts through June 30, 2020, meaning legislators can act next year before it expires.

Bennett said he felt the bill was unfair because it would have kept the program alive through 2024, meaning lawmakers elected this fall might not get to consider the program in the next four-year term. The move comes after the House didn't consider its own bill on the subject. Bennett said support seemed tepid.

"The bill that we had in the House, I let it die," he said. "Not one representative came to me about the bill."

Bennett also said he thinks the program needs changes following a report from a legislative watchdog group. The report by the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review said the program doesn't track whether recipients are making academic progress, and found a third of scholarship-accepting schools surveyed reported they employed no special education staff. Students at some private schools may be served by special education teachers employed by local public schools, the report found. Federal law requires public schools to provide special education services to some students in private schools.

A survey of recipients found 91 percent of participating parents satisfied with the program.

Right now, the program gets $3 million a year. Groups seeking expansions highlight the fact that there's a wait list and not everyone who applies gets funded.

"I think legislators are rightfully concerned about how the program has played out," said Nancy Loome, executive director of The Parents' Campaign, which opposes the program.

It's possible that even though lawmakers didn't take up the bill, they will choose to spend more in an attempt to clear the waiting list.

Despite the waiting list, though, the program hasn't been spending all its money every year. Some parents are awarded money, but can't find a school to take their child. PEER also found that the Mississippi Department of Education fails to prioritize students on the wait list with active special education plans.

A plan that would have allowed broader use of public money to pay private school tuition for any students died last year in the Senate. Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, an Oxford Republican, proposed the same bill this year, but amended it to just extend the current program.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 292811

Reported Deaths: 6613
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19515228
Hinds18611385
Harrison16431275
Rankin12543261
Jackson12419216
Lee9641160
Madison9378194
Jones7857145
Forrest7094136
Lauderdale6760225
Lowndes5998137
Lamar581180
Lafayette5698113
Washington5135128
Bolivar4580120
Oktibbeha438691
Panola424992
Warren4101113
Pearl River4083128
Pontotoc406668
Marshall398392
Monroe3977126
Union392173
Neshoba3758166
Lincoln3447100
Hancock338673
Leflore3349118
Sunflower316685
Tate299874
Pike298293
Scott291867
Alcorn289660
Itawamba288571
Yazoo283262
Tippah275465
Copiah273957
Coahoma272666
Simpson270778
Prentiss267658
Leake251370
Wayne250540
Marion249878
Covington247178
Grenada244676
Adams232877
George229845
Newton223151
Winston220274
Tishomingo211465
Jasper211244
Attala205969
Chickasaw200550
Holmes181470
Clay177848
Stone171129
Tallahatchie169239
Clarke168271
Calhoun155527
Smith151531
Yalobusha142236
Greene126533
Walthall123340
Noxubee122629
Perry120934
Montgomery120537
Lawrence119021
Carroll117223
Amite110732
Webster109229
Jefferson Davis99931
Tunica98023
Claiborne97329
Benton92524
Humphreys91326
Kemper89422
Quitman76614
Franklin75419
Choctaw69416
Wilkinson62226
Jefferson61027
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 490220

Reported Deaths: 9744
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson704661342
Mobile35810721
Madison32203443
Tuscaloosa23961409
Montgomery22417489
Shelby21773211
Baldwin19635272
Lee14883147
Morgan13571248
Etowah13118312
Calhoun13090283
Marshall11212203
Houston10036257
Limestone9321133
Elmore9313179
Cullman8864177
St. Clair8771220
Lauderdale8570210
DeKalb8419173
Talladega7450162
Walker6492249
Jackson6466102
Autauga617285
Blount6072125
Colbert5978118
Coffee5229100
Dale4614106
Russell401431
Franklin397675
Covington3948105
Chilton383196
Escambia376670
Tallapoosa3559139
Clarke342749
Dallas3396140
Chambers3393103
Pike292771
Lawrence281284
Marion280793
Winston245665
Bibb243759
Marengo238554
Geneva238468
Pickens223554
Barbour209550
Hale208464
Fayette199356
Butler195165
Henry182341
Cherokee176338
Monroe165638
Randolph162740
Washington156233
Crenshaw143353
Clay143254
Macon140543
Cleburne136539
Lamar131632
Lowndes130148
Wilcox120825
Bullock116534
Conecuh106523
Perry105327
Sumter98231
Coosa86823
Greene86732
Choctaw54723
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