(The Center Square) — In a recently released report on education freedom, Mississippi finished nine spots from the bottom.
Policies on charter and virtual schools, open enrollment and education scholarship accounts were key reasons for the low ranking from the American Legislative Exchange Council. It’s 2023 Index of State Education Freedom “focuses exclusively on the policies each state has in place to ensure their students can access the best educational environment for them.”
The report gave the Magnolia State an F grade, with the state receiving failing marks for its policies on financing programs and virtual schooling, D’s for charter school and open enrollment and a B for its policies on homeschooling.
Neighbors Arkansas earned an A, Tennessee a B and both Alabama and Louisiana had C’s.
In the last legislative session, the Senate killed two school choice bills that passed the House without a floor vote.
House Bill 1000 would’ve allowed adoptive parents and legal guardians of foster children to enroll them in any public school district statewide, while HB1150 would have allowed more entities to authorize public charter schools. As originally written, HB1000 would’ve allowed foster children to participate in the state’s education scholarship program, but was rewritten in the House Education Committee.
One reason for the low score on charter schools is that they are allowed in only D- and F-rated school districts unless approved by the local school district board. There is also only one authorizing entity, the state charter authorizer board. As a result, there are only nine schools statewide, with most of them in the Jackson metro area.
Mississippi does have an education student account program that allows participating parents of children with special needs to receive $6,500 to use on tuition, books and other approved learning aids. It will expire on the first day of the new fiscal year July 1.
The program was reauthorized in 2020 for another four years. Restrictions such as a ban on using the funds at schools outside the state were put in place. Another requirement added in the renewal was a mandate for an Individual Education Program assessment within three years; the previous requirement was five years.