Since 1999, Florida taxpayers have spent more than a billion dollars, including $150 million in the last fiscal year, on the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students With Disabilities Program. In 2011, "Rotten to the Core," by staff writer Gus Garcia-Roberts, exposed stunning flaws in this program, which pays tuition for children to attend private schools.
The story revealed that a lack of oversight and hypocritical design allowed students without any disabilities to be crammed into dangerous class settings and given negligible education. Administrators and teachers have criminal records ranging from cocaine dealing to kidnapping. Kids in these schools are sometimes even paddled, a tactic outlawed for three decades in most Florida public schools.
Both the State Board of Education and the Miami-Dade School Board have pledged, in response to Garcia-Roberts' story, that lobbying for reform of the McKay program will be a priority in the upcoming legislative session.