A 2013 report from Charity Navigator gives Step Up for Students high marks as administrator of Florida’s voucher system, the misleading named the Florida Tax Credit Program. The report in PR Web quotes CEO Doug Tuthill:
We’re doing important work and we’re obsessed with doing this work well,” said Tuthill. “Since we began more than a decade ago, we’ve distributed more than $1.4 billion in scholarships to low-income children in Florida to attend the K-12 private school their parents have chosen. We are good stewards of our donors’ money and the public trust.”
Tuthill, who’s gotten into a lot of trouble lately for running his mouth, coyly fails to mention that those “donors” are Florida taxpayers. And Florida taxpayers have had to forgo more than $1.4 billion in tax revenue as a result.
Charity Navigator fawns all over Step Up for Students and finds they “demonstrate to the public it is worthy of their trust.”
This occurred before revelations about SUFS emerged regarding the political activities and advocacies for issues separate from the voucher program. Even a friendly republican caucus knew that SUFS had to be reigned in and put in new regulations. This from sponsor Senator Bill Galvano:
“It prohibits eligible contribution and application fees from being used for lobbying or political activity or related expenses,” Galvano says. “It strengthens accountability for SFO’s by increasing audit requirements, requiring the auditor general to conduct annual operational audits of SFO’s.”
Galvano also wants to give the state auditor general the ability to review the programs and mandate background checks for owners and operators.
SUFS and other entities bitterly oppose the assertion that vouchers cost taxpayers anything almost as much as they assert that the Norm Referenced test voucher schools take provide the same accountability standard as did the FCAT. Their most recent evasion of the discrepancy is to say they’d give up tests for universal choice.
Dr.Rosa Castro Feinberg’s stunning rebuke of vouchers last week for their demonstrable poor record with and attention to English language learners sent SUFS and voucher advocates scrambling. They couldn’t contradict Castro-Feinberg. Saying that her criticism was unfair, they asserted that the solution was, you guessed it, more school choice.
Floridians overwhelming don’t want vouchers. A recent poll from Sunshine State News revealed that 55 percent oppose with only 42 percent approving.
What more can republican Senators need to know to oppose this irresponsible expansion of vouchers? It’s unaccountable for outcomes; it’s prone to misuse and corruption; it fails to serve and is set up to mislead our most vulnerable.
Today’s voucher vote will define Senate republicans. A vote for vouchers will forever remove their credibility is supporting any kind of education accountability in the future. They will never again be able to assert that they are faithful custodians of taxpayer dollars. No republican senator will ever be able to say again that they actually listen to Floridians. Nor will any republican senator be able to convey how much they care for those who need them most. And they will most certainly be labeled as being for the dismantling of public schools.