Writing in her hometown newspaper, the Lakeland Ledger, former republican state senator Paula Dockery makes the clear case why voucher expansion cannot be intellectually be defended:
Opponents of voucher expansion make a valid argument. Students attending private schools are not subjected to high-stakes tests. The schools are not required to hire certified teachers or to comply with the overabundance of mandates foisted on the public schools. Additionally, money used for vouchers is taken away from basic public school needs.
And what do we know about the performance of voucher students in private schools? Not much.
If it’s imperative for public school students to be tested, it should be imperative for any student receiving public school funds. The Florida Senate should continue to insist on accountability before expanding the use of vouchers.
Better yet, the Senate should let the voucher-expansion bill die and instead focus on arming our teachers with the resources and flexibility they need to help each and every student achieve their highest level of learning.
Dockery obviously hasn’t been swayed by the propaganda campaign put up by Step Up for Students executives to save the bill which would pump millions into their coffers which goes towards supporting a lot more than just Florida’s plan:
The nonprofit Step up for Students administers the majority of vouchers and receives millions in administrative fees. With a lot to gain from the House Bill, Step Up has made several unfortunate and notable missteps. Step Up claimed it had a waiting list of tens of thousands of students, beyond the roughly 60,000 students it serves. When pressed to produce the list, it had to admit there was none.
Another embarrassing transgression came to light when a video was uncovered quoting the president of Step Up For Students, Doug Tuthill, explaining how they were able to achieve their legislative success through a combination of investing large sums of political action committee money into legislative campaigns and by making low-income families the face of vouchers, putting Democratic legislators in an awkward position
The hyper-partisan House is waiting to see if SUFS is able to turn public opinion enough to pressure the Senate into some sort of deal. Last week’s Sunshine State News poll revealed that an overwhelming number of Floridians oppose vouchers. Dockery’s narrative on SUFS’ troubling business plan shows that they’ve not been able to spin their way out of the mess their own spin campaign has gotten themselves into. If a republican proponent of vouchers like Dockery sees trouble, there are likely be others that do, too.