Scathing Purple Musings won’t have to add much to Tom Romano’s take-down in the Tampa Bay Times of legislation which expanded Florida’s school voucher system.
Students, teachers and administrators are seemingly held captive by standardized tests in public schools, and yet tax revenues flow into private schools with few checks and balances and virtually no oversight.
Vouchers were sold as a way for poverty-level students to attend private schools with public funds, but legislation passed Friday will dramatically expand the program into middle-class territory.
“This is a sad day for public education,” said Mindy Gould, the Florida PTA legislative chair. “This is just part of a much larger plan to privatize public education in Florida.”
Let me pause for this obligatory disclaimer:
There is absolutely nothing wrong with private schools. A lot of private schools provide an educational experience that is far and away better than many public schools.
So what’s the problem?
Just fairness. And consistency. And the safeguarding of public money.
You cannot have over-the-top dependency on standardized tests in public schools, and under-the-rug disregard when it comes to private schools. Not if you plan on funneling more and more taxpayer funds toward those private schools.
Look at it this way:
Florida has micromanaged public education to the point of absurdity. The state’s entire educational experience, including curriculum, revolves around the results of a handful of standardized tests that are far from infallible. These exams are so danged important, legislators even insist that profoundly disabled children are not always exempt.
This testing devotion is so disheartening to so many parents, they are seeking any type of alternative for their child’s education.
And … surprise!
That plays right into the Jeb Bush-mindset of creating a separate-but-unequal educational choice system that the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional.
Most bitter for the state’s public school advocates was the defection of three democrat senators in Gwen Margolis (Miami), Jeremy Ring (Fort Lauderdale)) and Darren Soto (Kissimmee). As minority whip, Soto’s vote will be most scrutinized after accepting a $1000 campaign contribution in March from John Kirtley, the CEO of Step Up for Students which administrates the voucher program.
The political cover the three democrats gave still doesn’t change the reality that this was a republican bill and it is they who have changed their own identity. More from Romano:
Ignore all the other disturbing details and focus on one remarkable inconsistency:
Lawmakers are obsessively fanatical about accountability in public schools, and yet disturbingly unconcerned about accountability in private schools.
Ain’t that a kick in the class?
No Florida republican can ever be taken seriously again when they hyperventilate about “failing schools,” or that public school teachers “should be held accountable.” And how do they or Governor Rick Scott begin to justify merit pay based on test scores in legislation they rammed home in 2010 as is to be implemented this fall. Strange it never came up during the session, isn’t it?
Romano is correct in hanging this on Jeb Bush, too. He’s running for president on his supposed Florida education miracle. Combined with his creepy Common Core crony capitalism, his school choice contradictions will provide fodder for his opponents in the campaign. Separate-but-unequal won’t play well with any voter.