Mississippi’s PEER* Committee has issued a damning report of our state’s ESA voucher program, which uses public funds to pay private school tuition for children with special needs.
• Since the program’s implementation in 2015, 43% of funds appropriated have not been spent
• Of 776 new vouchers assigned prior to December 2018, only 346 were ever used (additional source: MDE records request); reasons parents gave for not using the vouchers:
- Children were denied admission to private schools
- Unable to find a private school that met their child’s needs
- Unable to afford the tuition and fees charged by the schools
• Of 33 private voucher schools that responded to PEER’s request for information**, 22 rely on public schools to provide special education services to their private school students
• Misuse of funds by voucher recipients, including:
- $11,000 to a parent for “teaching” with no evidence the child attended an eligible school
- $6,286 for uncertified “tutoring”
- $390 to a preschool for “Mothers Day Out”
Parents whose children received vouchers were surveyed and 40% responded. Not surprisingly, most of those who responded were “satisfied” that they were receiving taxpayer dollars to pay their children’s tuition at private schools.
We believe that this voucher program is an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars and a violation of the public trust. Public funds should be used for public schools.
The 2019 Legislative Session will convene at noon on Tuesday, January 8, and we’ll be counting on you to help us prevent any further diversion of public school funds to private academies and for-profit, online private schools.
In the meantime, all of us at The Parents’ Campaign wish you a wonderful holiday and a happy New Year!
*Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER Committee) – the Mississippi Legislature’s oversight agency which is authorized by law to review publicly-funded entities and programs.
**PEER requested information from 101 private schools that had received public funds as part of the voucher program; only 33 private schools chose to respond.
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