(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
The Clarion-Ledger endorsed ESAs for Special Education children in Mississippi in a powerful editorial today:
In 1997, The Clarion-Ledger published an award-winning series of stories highlighting the problems facing special-needs students in Mississippi.
Among its findings: Parents had to battle public schools to get federally mandated services for their children; the state had few qualified teachers to provide an appropriate education to disabled students; and just 17 percent of special-needs children graduated high school.
On Feb. 2, the newspaper published another series on special education that found little has changed.
Nearly two decades later, parents of special-needs kids still battle school districts. Teachers and administrators still lack training. And despite six new state superintendents, countless different strategies and billions of dollars in federal funding since that first series ran, Mississippi’s special-needs graduation rate has risen just 6 percentage points.
Less than one in four students with disabilities leave high school with a diploma in Mississippi. It’s the worst special-needs graduation rate in the nation. Most states graduate 50 percent or more.
We support public schools, but we cannot support the systemic failure of certain students over the course of several decades without any signal from MDE that something will change.
For that reason, we believe SB 2325 and HB 765 offer a reasonable solution to a longstanding problem and the first glimmer of hope for thousands of parents.
Meanwhile NPR interviewed Oklahoma Rep. Jason Nelson on his ESA proposal. Money quote:
Q: If the students who are left in public schools are the least likely to succeed, doesn’t it almost guarantee those schools won’t do well?
I’ve got two children in public school. I’ve not yet talked to any parent that sees their child as a funding unit for the public school system. None of us see our kids that way. It’s silly to make an argument like that: “Your child needs to come to this school because they’re a funding unit and we need to have that.”
The people who are leaving are the people that aren’t getting their needs met. If you’re happy, then you’re going to stay. If the school’s not working for your child for whatever reason, you should have no obligation to stay.