State Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, asked Tuesday for more oversight in the McKay Scholarship Program.
Krisemans request was sent to the states chairwoman of the K-20 Innovation Subcommittee, Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.
In a letter dated Nov. 29, Kriseman said he believes accountability might be lacking in the voucher program, which is designed to give students with disabilities a scholarship to attend a private school of their choice.
I am troubled by news accounts detailing cases of abuse and fraud due to an apparent lack of accountability, he said. The Legislature must do everything it can to make sure that children who receive McKay Scholarships to attend private schools get the highest quality education possible.
Kriseman suggested nine issues to increase accountability, including mandatory site inspections of facilities. He said the Department of Education should review and sign off on personnel criminal background checks in facilities seeking to receive McKay dollars. And teachers in a school accepting McKay dollars should have a state teaching certificate.
Former State Senate President John McKay -- who created the law -- agrees. McKay listened to Krisemans full list of suggestions.
A number of his suggestions are quite positive, McKay said. Many of the things hes asking for are already in the statute.
McKay suggested asking officials with the Department of Education to enforce the law.
Its nice to have words in a statute, McKay said. Unless someone does something, its kind of meaningless.
Kriseman seemed surprised by McKays assessment.
If that is the law and its not being enforced, thats a problem, said Kriseman, Democratic ranking member of the Innovation Subcommittee.
Officials with the states education department were in on the discussion regarding more accountability, Kriseman said. He said no one mentioned that his suggestions were already in state law.
Kriseman hopes for the committee to take a look at his suggestions and review what might be worthy of being new legislation.
In 2010-11, there were 22,198 students participating in the McKay Scholarship Program with 1,013 private schools, according to the Department of Education. The years average scholarship cost came to $7,209 and the annual cost to the state was $148.56 million.