From Halifax Media Group reporter Zac Anderson in the Lakeland Ledger:
(Rep. Will) Weatherford and (Don) Gaetz are continuing to push conservative-leaning education reforms, including more school vouchers and a greater focus on career and technical education that prepares students for jobs.
But Gaetz noted that even President Barack Obama backed a jobs-focused approach to K-12 education in his State of the Union address Tuesday.
Some Florida Democrats also lauded the approach. Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said that as a former school principal and superintendent he had plenty of students who were not college bound and could benefit from more advanced job-oriented training.
“We fell into a trap a couple of generations ago,” Montford said. “And that was the mind-set if you don’t go to college, you’re a failure. That’s the worst thing that ever happened to public education.”
Montford was less enthusiastic about efforts to expand charter schools and voucher programs that allow children to attend private schools, arguing there should be more accountability when taxpayer money is diverted from public schools.
Such “school choice” initiatives are perennial favorites of the Republican-controlled Legislature. Weatherford hinted that much more is coming in 2014.
“We’re going to do a massive expansion of choice for families,” he said.
So what kind of “massive expansion” is Weatherford talking about? Maybe a clue comes from yesterday’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) press release which touted the Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA):
Traditionally, each state allocates funds to the public school system, which then charges schools with the task of educating their enrolled students. Through Arizona’s ESA program, parents can use the state dollars designated for their child’s education to cover the costs of multiple education options— including private school tuition, online education, tutoring, or textbooks—and they can save a portion of those funds for future educational expenses, such as college tuition. The program provides direct account control to parents via restricted-use debit cards. The cards are loaded with roughly 90 percent of the tuition funds reserved by the state for each child’s public school enrollment.
FEE always uses clever wording to not draw unwarranted scrutiny. It doesn’t use “voucher” as it’s toxic. Nor do they admit that ESA is a new “entitlement,” which is really toxic.
No word on how Florida republicans might expand – or pay for – their hyper- accountability-ism to “online education, tutoring and textbooks.” Can’t wait to hear about that. What a bonanza this would be for the corporate clients of the Chamber of Commerce, eh? Man, to be able to directly market your wares to parents with a free cashed-up credit card.