State Representative Takes Action on McKay Scholarship Abuses, Bradenton Times, 12/3/11

posted Feb 1, 2012, 12:56 AM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Feb 1, 2012, 12:57 AM ]
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State Representative Takes Action on McKay Scholarship Abuses
 State representative Rick Kriseman (D-St. Petersburg) recently sent a letter recommending changes that would address the fraud-plagued McKay Scholarship Program. A recent expose´ in  Miami New Times referred to the program’s exploitation as a “perverse science experiment, using disabled school kids as lab rats and funded by nine figures in taxpayer cash.” The article uncovered an even bigger problem – many unregulated private charter schools in Florida are lacking a valid curriculum, while still collecting our tax money.

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The McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program is meant to provide Florida students with special needs the opportunity to attend a participating private school or public school of their choice. The program has grown in the last 12 years since it was introduced under then-Governor Jeb Bush, and has been funded by approximately $148.6 million in past 12 months. There are 1,013 participating schools; 64 percent of which are religious. The program awards an average of $7,209 per eligible student.

 

Registration for the scholarship relies mostly on the honor system and there is practically no oversight of how the money is spent. The Department of Education has investigated 38 schools suspected of McKay fraud, in 25 cases, the allegations have been authenticated. Fraud cases have included providing funding to schools that don’t exist, administrators that forge attendance documents for students that aren’t enrolled, and schools employing a staff with criminal records.

 

There is no accreditation requirement for McKay schools. Without curriculum regulations, the DOE can’t be refunded, even if schools are exploiting their scholarships


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