On Voucher Expansion, “Floridians Will Pay For the Legislature’s Sins For Years”

While the propaganda campaign is already underway by Step Up for Students to advance that narrative that more people are for voucher expansion than there really are, the editors of the Tampa Bay Times

Extending private school tuition vouchers to the middle class should require a clear vote and thorough debate by the Florida Legislature. So should creating a significant new entitlement for disabled students. Yet on the final day of the legislative session, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz allowed these two controversial issues to be tucked into a 140-page catch-all education bill and approved with little discussion. If Gov. Rick Scott signs this bill into law, Floridians will pay for the Legislature’s sins for years.

Buried in mammoth legislation, SB 850, is a bad idea that never had a hearing in the Senate until the final day of the session: opening the door to publicly financed, lightly regulated private school vouchers to middle class students — with still no guarantee taxpayers will get their money’s worth.

……this legislation does nothing to ensure that the private schools that teach voucher students do their job. Private schools aren’t required to have accreditation or meet state curriculum standards, for example. Under the bill, a handful of private schools — those where 51 percent of their students receive public vouchers — would be required to more fully disclose the results of standardized tests. But unlike public schools, they still would face no penalty for poor performance.

This continues the hypocrisy of the Republican-led Legislature that demands extraordinary accountability of public schools based on student performance on standardized tests but turns a blind eye when it comes to the millions of public dollars that flow to private schools.

This remarkable double-standard reveals that republicans have chosen winners and losers. They know that Floridians don’t like school grades, high-stakes tests, and Common Core. A Sunshine State News poll revealed that Floridians were opposed to vouchers by a whopping 55-42 percent, a clear indication that Floridians like their public schools despite republican efforts to make them not like them.

Jeb Bush’s new Florida way has recently been described as a “seperate-but-unequal educational choice system.” A Florida school board member observed that “there is school choice and there is the destruction of public education choice.

Moreover, evidenced exist that expansion of Florida’s voucher system is the latest republican corporate welfare scheme. Marcia Lane explains in the St. Augustine Record:

At the start of the session, state officials announced they expected $1.5 billion in new revenue. Half-a-billion in tax cuts insisted upon by state legislators and Gov. Rick Scott took a third of the money out of play. Originally, both the Senate and House budgets gave districts more money.

After the two legislative bodies conferred, the 2.6 percent allocation they agreed on was lower than what either had initially offered.

Tax revenue expected by Florida public schools was slashed by $100 million. Did the saved tax revenue go back to corporations to redistribute back to the voucher program that benefits both a republican constituency and a republican agenda to destroy public schools? Talk about cost neutral.

This unseemly patronage notwithstanding, voucher expansion remains a bad idea which the Times reminds Floridians is a “lightly regulated private school vouchers to middle class students — with still no guarantee taxpayers will get their money’s worth”

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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