Democrats in the Mississippi legislature are sounding the alarm about a plan to offer a 6-thousand dollar education voucher to families of special needs students. They are concerned that funnel millions of dollars to private schools in the state. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports Bills have passed both chambers that would establish a voucher program for the families of students who need special accommodations.
Speaking the capitol Rotunda, Senator Hob Bryan of Amory says he agrees that special needs students are under-served but says the vouchers are not the fix.
He compared the vouchers to a 6-thousand dollar check going directly into someone's bank account with no way of knowing how they are spending the money.
"We have a constant battle going on in the legislature with those who believe in vouchers. And they believe a student should be able to take tax money and go over to a private school and pay for private school tuition with that voucher. I don't think most Mississippians believe that. And I don't think most legislators believe that," Bryan said.
Bryan says students with problems as minor as an allergy could receive the vouchers.
But some parents, like Jennifer Gatewood the mother of a 16 year old with ADHD, say they need the freedom to do what is best for their children.
"Its not just about a parent going and saying 'my student has an allergy, so he has special needs'. That's not what this bill is about. This bill is about putting the funds with the child where it belongs. The funds are there for that child and they should follow them," gatewood said.
One of the bill's main authors also disagrees that the money could not be tracked.
Senator Nancy Collins of Tupelo says the department of education would create a list of vendors were the money could be spent.
"Those venders that will be approved would have a code. Any vender that is not approved, that card won't work," Collins said.
The house and senate are currently considering both bills.