In addition to providing $30 million in public funding to deal with a landfill problem for Bella Vista, effectively a bailout for wealthy the developer, Cooper Communities, Joint Budget yesterday also doubled spending on an unaccountable handout of public money to private schools in a voucher program.

A tiny amendment doubled from $1.5 million to $3 million the state outlay for the Succeed Scholarship program. It’s a school voucher program. It allows children to get $6,700 in state aid to attend a private school. The children must have an Individualized Education Programs, but the lack of rigor imposed on qualifying conditions and on qualifications of the schools that get the money has been among criticisms of the program. Schools need not be accredited. They must employ only one special ed teacher to qualify for the money, without specific requirement for the varying needs of students.  Students who participate must waive thir civil rights granted by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Also, because some schools aren’t accredited, a student could attend four years of high school but not be eligible for a diploma.

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There’s been state study of the success of the first-year program. A bill has been filed to review it. Another bill would allow the money to go to existing private school students. For now, it is meant to go to public school students moving to private schools.

We know some education efforts worth additional money — pre-K, after-school and summer programs (proven ideas but never funded by the legislature), addressing the teacher crisis, paying good teachers to go into needy areas.


Too bad. There are millionaires who need income tax cuts and real estate developments like Cooper Communities’ Bella Vista that need protection from paying for problems they helped create. And then there’s the Billionaire Boys Club agenda to expand school vouchers.

I don’t think this latest doubling of categorical voucher money is the end of the voucher expansion story. The existing money goes overwhelmingly to religious schools — 15 of the 34 are Catholic schools — as opposed to schools explicitly aimed at serving special needs kids.


PS: The taxpayer money funnels through a nonprofit, the Reform Alliance. In the most recent tax return available, for 2016, it spent most of the more than $600,000 in state money it received on office expenses and promotion, with $47,000 going to grants..