Mississippi Voucher Funds Go Unused

More than a third of Mississippi’s voucher funds are not being used.

A recent public records request revealed that more than a third of the funds that the Mississippi Legislature appropriated for private school vouchers last year was not spent. In fact, so few of the students who were assigned special needs vouchers were able to use them that the Mississippi Department of Education held a second lottery to re-assign unused vouchers.

Even after assigning those vouchers a second time, much of the funding sat idle. Our records request revealed (accounting for both lotteries held for the 2016-2017 school year):
• Of the 559 students assigned vouchers, 220 never used them (39%)
• Of the $3-million in voucher funds appropriated, $1.01-million was not used (more than a third)
• Special education in Mississippi’s public schools was underfunded $26.5-million in the 2016-2017 school year

Some parents of students assigned vouchers reported to the MDE that they were unable to use the vouchers because no private school would accept their children.

You might have seen some of the slick mailers bankrolled by out-of-state privatizers hawking their brand of “education freedom” and “school choice.” Don’t be fooled: when it comes to school choice, it’s the private voucher schools that have all the freedom and choice, not parents.

Meanwhile, public schools, that educate every child, are underfunded to the tune of $213-million this year, with $26.5-million of that owed to special education. Especially when we can’t afford to fulfill our obligations to public schools, tax dollars should not be spent on private schools that have no intention of educating all of our children.

Research tells us:
• Public schools provide a higher quality of education than private voucher schools (public school students outperform private voucher school students)
• Voucher schools exclude low-income students by charging tuition and fees beyond what the vouchers cover
• Vouchers give all of the “choice” to private schools that admit only students they want to educate and exclude all others (parents don’t get to choose)
• Voucher schools are shielded from public oversight and unaccountable to taxpayers

Vouchers serve no public interest, and they are an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars. Public funds should be invested in the public good, not in individual “choices” that further divide us. Please make sure your legislators know the facts about vouchers – and that our dwindling public resources must be invested in ways that benefit the common good for all Mississippians. And thanks, as always for standing up for all our children!

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