Based on all accounts, the “School Choice Now!” event at the Mississippi Capitol on Tuesday was well attended. The SCN folks put on a good presentation, even utilizing teachers and students during the rally to get the point across about their opportunity scholarship program.
The opportunity scholarship program, or student voucher, basically means that parents in underperforming school districts–and mostly in the low to middle income bracket– have the power to send their child to another school, not bound by zip code or any other geographical area. The tax dollars even follow the student from one school to the other. A total of 16 states and the District of Columbia and in Douglas County, Colorado, have been under the program for several years, with around 82,000 students participating. In D. C., voucher students have seen an increase of 21% in graduation rates.
Is this a solution that’s viable for Mississippi–or better yet, right here in our own backyard?
This area is no stranger to underperforming schools and parents, teachers and school administrators working to turn them around quickly. The situation hurts more than just the kids. Over the past few years, industries looking to relocate or build anew in Copiah County have been sold–on location, on the local governmental leadership, on the financial deal–on everything right up until the availability of strong public schools. Many of these industrial companies were bringing higher paying jobs–up to the $25/hour range–to Copiah County. These are opportunities that are lost forever unless something changes.
I’ve had many parents, in the Hazlehurst City School District, for example, that tell me they want a way out. Some have enrolled their kids at Copiah Educational Foundation, or other independent schools, and have seen their children flourish. Many are stuck, otherwise, because the live in a the huge district that swallows the middle of Copiah County.
But, this option has some teeth, at least on the outset. The problem that will arise is how many new students to the higher performing schools have to take before they are over booked.
We must at least try something different, else we will keep getting the same results that will continue to see new job creation opportunities evade Copiah County. You can read more at http://www.schoolchoicenowtn.com/.