State lawmakers should reconsider out of state vouchers

Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 25, 2017

State lawmakers are discussing a bill that would expand an existing program for students with dyslexia.

HB 1046 would add grades 7 though 12 to a program that enables students to use state money to attend school with specialized dyslexia programs, whether they be in another district or at a private institution.

Part of the debate, however, centers on students in geographically outlying counties.

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Some legislators say that under this new law, students could be able to use the state funds at schools across the state line in Tennessee, or across the southeastern border with Alabama.

Essentially, they object to spending Mississippi money in another state.

The Senate version of this bill would essentially add this voucher language for students to attend private institutions, taking MAEP dollars with them.

While it’s commendable for the legislature to work to expand the program, it should not be done so at the expense of the availability of MAEP funding to public schools in Mississippi.

Schools in other states or private institutions are not held to the same standards and accountability as Mississippi’s public schools.

More importantly, the change could mean less money for our own students.

The bill passed the House on Feb. 9 and was transferred to the Senate Education Committee, who passed it along to the Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

According to the Jackson Free Press, state funding per dyslexia students is about $5,000, with 165 students currently using the program. Adding another six grades of applicants could double that budget.

With no limit to the amount of vouchers that can be distributed, students with dyslexia could choose to attend a private or out-of-state school.

We should be using that money to keep our students at home, and working with educators to provide them the best quality education right here in Mississippi.