Gov. Phil Bryant has been all over talk radio the last few days talking about the “education establishment” that “turned its back on special-needs kids.”
Bryant is talking about the failure of two bills this last legislative session which would have taken funds from the state treasury to provide nonpublic school parents debit-type cards, preloaded with $6,000 in taxpayer funds, that they could use to pay tuition to private or online schools and for-profit providers, with no accountability for the quality of education provided those students.
These two bills were rife with problems. Overall, they were a step in the direction of privatization of our public schools – we’ve seen how well that has worked with our prisons. The Mississippi Legislature has underfunded public schools by $1.3 billion in the last several years: this means not only have they not given our schools the money they need, but they themselves have been underfunding special education services which rely on MAEP dollars to meet the needs of children who require special services. It takes a lot of nerve to accuse people who were against these voucher laws and for fully funding MAEP of having “turned their back on special needs kids.”
I’d like to thank our legislators who voted against these bills: they made the smart choice, and saw through taking funds from our already needy schools. I am all for helping special- needs kids, but let’s do it a smart way, with accountability and care.
It would be nice if Bryant had shown his care for all of the 493,000 children in public schools, including those with special needs, throughout his years in office. It’s not too late – he could show now how much he cares by advocating for full funding of all public schools rather than crying crocodile tears over vouchers that would have sent a few special needs children to private schools that are not required to provide special education services at all.
Public schools provide special education services to tens of thousands of students every year – what is the governor doing for them?