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Education bills bring split opinions

NATCHEZ — Area legislators who could be reached Tuesday had divergent opinions on two education bills – ones on which the deadline for action is today.

State Sen. Kelvin Butler, D-Magnolia, said he voted against Senate Bill 2695 regarding school vouchers because too many questions were left unanswered.

“You’d be giving money to parents to use whatever way they want,” Butler said.

That bill would pay for special education students to attend private schools that are not accountable to the state. That’s according to the Mississippi Parents’ Campaign, a group lobbying against both bills.

“What children would be picked? What are the criteria for being included in that program? So many of these factors were not addressed,” he added.

State Sen. Melanie Sojourner, R-Natchez, however, voted yes.

“The bottom line is, it’s going to give parents to right to pick what’s the best education for their child,” Sojourner said.

“I don’t think that should be the state’s role, to say what the state believes is the best (education) for your child. I’m a firm believer in giving people a lot of choices.”

Sojourner added that like other education-related bills passed in recent years, including one on charter schools, she feels it is a step in the right direction.

HB 488 would let scholarships be given to dyslexia therapists in private as well as public schools.

Sojourner said that issue is close to her heart, as someone close to her has struggled with dyslexia for more than 30 years.

As a student, that person was allowed to transfer from Adams County to Franklin County schools.

“They were given that choice,” Sojourner said, adding that HB 488 was a chance to go back to that kind of choice.

Butler, however, said he opposes HB 488, especially since “we already have problems funding public schools.”

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