After referring to themselves as “veteran observers of the political Animal House that is Tallahassee,” the editors of the Orlando Sentinel write:
No doubt, Sen. Bill Galvano was in full John “Bluto” Blutarsky mode when he slipped language at the eleventh hour into an education bill for special-needs kids that passed out of its last committee stop this week. The amendment ensured debate over whether to grow the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program in return for greater accountability isn’t over … until lawmakers, for a second time, decide it is.
Lawmakers should turn down any plan to expand vouchers that doesn’t subject the students who use them for private schools to the same kind of testing as their public-school counterparts. Since vouchers divert dollars from state coffers to private schools, taxpayers have a right to know how well they’re working.
It was only a matter of time before someone evoked Animal House to describe Florida republican legislative shenanigans on education policy. They skewer Senate President Don Gaetz on his accountability flip-flop, too.
Last month, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz was busy cleaning his silverware. He’d just stuck a fork in House Speaker Will Weatherford’s ambition to grow Florida’s education-voucher program.
The Senate, Gaetz said, wouldn’t consider a plan unless private schools drawing funding through state-approved vouchers would measure student gains using the testing yardstick public schools use. Expansion, this year, appeared dead.
As Scathing Purple Musings and others have documented, Gaetz was for voucher school accountability before he was against it.
The Sentinel concludes:
Meanwhile, the amendment only tantalizes on accountability. It would create an institute at Florida State University to report on student performance and learning gains at voucher schools, and authorize state audits. But those steps still fall short of the expectation for public schools.
Gaetz, of late, may have softened his stance on accountability. However, his first instinct was correct: Private-school students backed by taxpayer dollars ultimately should be evaluated by the same standards as public-school students.
The Senate bill awaits a vote on the Senate floor. An already flawed measure would get worse if senators wind up capitulating to House leaders who are keen to give middle-class families a taste of a pie originally marketed as a benefit for poor kids. While the Senate plan holds the maximum income eligibility at $43,500 for a family of four, the House plan would boost it to about $62,000.
Bluto may not have recognized when it was time to give up on a bad thing. We hope state lawmakers do.
Gaetz’ evasive spin in his press release on the bill shows that he knew he had to see if he could get away flip-flopping on voucher accountability. He obviously hasn’t. But Gaetz knows that he has the votes to get legislation through that he once gave Floridians the impression he was against.