Is this a voucher?
Of course it is. It uses public taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private schools. That is the definition of a voucher. Legislators calling it a “scholarship” doesn’t change the fact that it uses taxpayer dollars intended for public schools to pay private school tuition.
Where can this voucher be used?
The voucher can be used at any private school that hires a dyslexia therapist, in Mississippi or any other state (therapist must get MS certification). See strike-all, lines 72-78 and lines 248-253.
Our tax dollars can go to out-of-state private schools?
Yes, Mississippi tax dollars can be taken to private schools in any state, as long as a parent states in writing that his/her child cannot “reasonably obtain appropriate services” within 30 miles of his/her residence. See strike-all, lines 248-253.
How many vouchers will the state pay for?
There is no limit on the number of vouchers that can be awarded under this bill, therefore the cost to the state could be hundreds of millions of dollars. Some predict that as many as 30% of children could qualify as having dyslexia. If 10% of Mississippi students utilized this voucher, the cost would exceed $250-million. See strike-all, lines 81-88.
How will taxpayers know what quality of education we are getting for our tax dollars or the efficacy of the schools we are funding?
We won’t. Voucher schools are not accountable to Mississippi tax payers. Current statute governing Dyslexia Scholarship Program says in Code Section 37-73-29: The inclusion of eligible nonpublic schools within options available to Mississippi public school students does not expand the regulatory authority of the state, its officers, or any school district to impose any additional regulation of nonpublic schools beyond those reasonably necessary to enforce requirements expressly set forth in this chapter.
The amendment relaxes the requirement that voucher schools be audited by the State Auditor and allows the private schools to use any private firm of their choosing (see strike-all, lines 289-291). There is no requirement that schools provide evidence to taxpayers of appropriate academic outcomes.
What does research say about the effectiveness of vouchers?
Research says vouchers have been a failure. Ohio EdChoice vouchers yielded persistently lower achievement in voucher students; Louisiana voucher students performed significantly worse in math and reading after using the voucher to attend private schools; Milwaukee, DC, and Florida voucher programs also yielded poor results. See more here.