We need your help on a voucher bill.
You probably know that Mississippi’s ESA voucher program has been fraught with problems. At the root of it is the fact that, though the voucher is available only to children with special needs, the program doesn’t require private voucher schools to provide any special education services to the voucher students (see below how taxpayers are being bilked by this program).
SB 2594 amends the program to require that private voucher schools provide the services called for in a voucher student’s IEP, which is a giant step in the right direction. The bill needs to be tightened further to remove a killer loophole: allowing online schools (this loophole inadvertently negates much of the improvement intended in this bill).
SB 2594 will be debated in the Senate Education Committee next week. Please do two things now:
- Call members of the Senate Education Committee and ask that they remove the provision allowing online schools to participate (get contact info here)
- Ask your senator to vote yes on SB 2594 only if the online provision is removed
Find contact information for senators who represent your school district
Capitol Switchboard: 601.359.3770
How the current ESA program is bilking taxpayers – Mississippi’s public schools receive, on average, less than $4,000 in MAEP funds for a typical student. The ESA voucher sends $6,765 per student to private voucher schools, because the assumption is that they will provide often-costly special education services. But the ESA law says the private schools don’t have to provide SPED services, and most do not, as was revealed by a 2018 investigation performed by the Legislature’s oversight body, PEER. The voucher schools can simply pocket that extra $2,765 in state funds.
Worse, PEER found that most of the private voucher schools use local public schools to provide the limited special education services offered ESA students. So taxpayers pay twice. You pay the voucher schools, which are pocketing the extra funds, and you pay the public schools, which are providing the services to voucher students in private schools. It’s quite a scam.
SB 2594 will solve that huge problem by requiring the private voucher schools to provide the services called for in a student’s IEP AND to do so without assistance from the public schools. NOTE: If the online school loophole is not closed, the scam will continue.
We are grateful to Chairman DeBar for his work to tighten up this terribly flawed program. Let’s close that loophole and give taxpayers accountability for the tax dollars going to private voucher schools. Even more importantly, let’s make sure that Mississippi children receiving ESA vouchers actually have their special needs met according to their IEPs.
The bill comes up next week, so please make those calls today. Ask your friends and family to call, too. Because together, we’ve got this!