This morning, the Senate Education and Appropriations Committees passed SB 2594, a bill that puts in place new accountability measures for Mississippi’s ESA voucher program. And that giant online school loophole we asked you to call about? It was removed, so thank you for your work on that!
SB 2594 requires that private schools receiving vouchers for children with special needs actually provide special education services (many of the current voucher schools provide none), and it requires new levels of accountability – reporting of pre-test and post-test results to the Department of Education and bi-annual PEER reviews of the program to determine the degree to which private voucher schools are “meeting the needs of participating students as defined by the participating students’ IEPs.”
The bill also takes aim at one of the most egregious abuses of the current ESA program: taxpayers paying twice for the same services. Currently, many private voucher schools are pocketing the extra funding they are paid to provide special education services (70% more than what public schools get in state MAEP funds for a typical student) while using public schools to provide those services to voucher students. Moving forward, private schools that use public school services for voucher students must reimburse the public school at fair market value.
SB 2594 now will go to the full Senate for a vote.
If SB 2594 remains in its current form, WE WILL NOT TAKE A POSITION on the bill.
Note: The current ESA program is set to expire in June, so it will either be tightened up significantly via SB 2594, or it will expire.
We oppose any amendment to broaden the program beyond the language in SB 2594 as it passed Senate committees.
We’ll keep you posted as the bill moves through the process. In the meantime, thank you for taking a stand for children and for public schools. Together, we’ve got this!