Tammy Jackson complained about the huge tuition increases at a private, but state-supported school for kids with dyslexia--so her son was expelled, and now she has been denied further state support (in the form of McKay vouchers). Is this right?
Dyslexic teen loses voucher after mom's tuition complaint
By S.V. Date, Wednesday, August 04, 2004
TALLAHASSEE — A mother of a dyslexic teen who was expelled from a voucher-taking school after she complained about large tuition increases has been stripped of the voucher by state education officials.
Tammy Jackson had hoped to put her 13-year-old son into a new private school this month, six months after he was thrown out of the Dyslexia Research Institute, a Tallahassee private school.
But Department of Education officials told her she had lost her voucher because she had home-schooled Jarvis for the final three months of the 2003-04 school year — even though it was department officials who told her to home-school him in the first place, she said.
"This is not fair, because I don't know what I'll do with my child," she said, adding that without a state voucher, she cannot afford a private school that will help her son's learning problem. She said she does not want to return to a public school, where she said the classes are too large for her son to get the attention he needs.
Department spokesman MacKay Jimeson said: "This is a rare experience in a program benefiting thousands of children statewide. Parents today are provided with more choices than ever before, empowering them to place their children in a learning environment that meets their needs."
But state Sen. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston and a member of the Senate's task force looking at problems with the McKay voucher program, said the department has already determined that the current law does not exclude home-schoolers. The Palm Beach Post found last year that at least 380 students receive McKay vouchers even though they were being home-schooled.
Much of the money was being kept by "consultants" who helped parents get books and tutoring. The practice was never intended by lawmakers who created the program and would have been banned in a reform bill that died in the final hours of this spring's legislative session.
"If they're taking away her voucher for home-schooling, then they're doing selective enforcement," Wasserman Schultz said. "It's outrageous."
Jackson said she complained at a Dec. 4 meeting of parents from Dyslexia Research Institute about the school's tuition, which had risen from $4,700 in 2000-01 to $10,000 for the coming school year.
She said the effect had been to force parents taking the McKay voucher for disabled children to pay just as much out-of-pocket, about $5,000, now as they were before the program was implemented in 2000. She said she brought it up again in February and her son was expelled within days.
The expulsion letter stated the reason was excessive absences and tardiness, but Jackson said her son was absent and late even more the previous year without any such complaint.
Dyslexia Research Institute's director, Pat Hardman, did not return phone calls for this story.