Privatizing and “profitizing” public education?
That is exactly what the voucher bills debated in the 2014 Legislative Session were intended to do – and they had “disingenuous” and “unintended consequences” written all over them.
House Bill 765, defeated by the House of Representatives on the last day of the session, was very broad, allowing private schools receiving vouchers to cherry-pick students and explicitly stating that private voucher schools cannot be regulated or held accountable for the quality of education they provide. Furthermore, the bill did not require private voucher schools to provide any special education services whatsoever.
This same playbook has been used in other states to privatize public education. Legislators vote against adequate funding for public schools, including funding needed to provide special education accommodations. They then accuse public schools of under-serving students when districts can’t afford all the accommodations requested by parents, and they push vouchers to pay tuition at private schools that offer no special education services at all.
That same thing is happening in Mississippi. The very legislators blasting school districts for providing insufficient accommodations to children with special needs are among those who consistently vote against providing the funds to pay for those accommodations.
Legislators should be held accountable for their responsibility to our school children. For legislators to starve public schools of the resources needed to serve all children well – and then publicly denounce those same schools for failing to provide the services that the Legislature refused to fund – is shameful.
The challenges faced by children with special needs and their families are very real and require urgent attention. Those problems can and must be resolved. Vouchers do nothing to accomplish that. Instead, they hurt the very kids they purport to help, and they threaten to diminish public education for all Mississippi children.