Governor Rick Scott saw what happened to Charlie Crist when he vetoed SB6, republicans first attempt at imposing a test-based teacher evaluation bill. There’s no chance Scott will veto voucher expansion. But the FEA is doing the right thing by emphasizing in letter to Scott what’s so tragically wrong with the bill, and getting themselves on record as opposing Scott and state republicans. Writes Leslie Postal in the Orlando Sentinel:
The union asked Scott to veto the bill (SB 850) because, it argued, it would expand a program that “diverts money away from our public schools and provides it to private and religious schools with little oversight or accountability.”
The bill, one of the most-contentious of the 2014 Florida Legislature session, would expand the state’s Tax-Credit Scholarship Program. The program provides tuiton vouchers to low-income students, who can use them to attend private school.
Corporations fund the program with donations, for which the state gives them credits on their tax bill. Nearly 60,000 students used the scholarships this school year.
The program has grown rapidly since it was started in 2001, and it has the strong support of many of Florida’s Republican leaders. They argue it provides an important choice for parents whose children may be struggling in public school but who cannot afford a private option on their own.
But opponents, like the union, note that most of the scholarships go to private schools, and most of those are religious. In its letter to Scott, the union said that sending children to religious schools with taxpayer money “violates the will of Florida voters” who’ve voted to preserve “separation of church and state” in Florida’s constitution.
The letter also said that the private schools are not subject to the same accountability rules as public ones. Students using the vouchers do not “take the state mandated tests,” it read, and “teachers hired by these schools do not have to be certified, and there is no penalty for poor student performance.”
The expansion of vouchers befittingly ends any moral authority Florida republican politicians claimed in their chest-thumping about “holding teachers accountable.” Moreover, such an absence of “accountability and oversight” for voucher schools coupled with that fact that those schools aren’t mandated to apply Common Core Standards to curriculum beclowns all that gibberish about needing to “prepare our students for a global workforce.”
The “school choice” meme has been reduced to a whimpering, meaningless false choice evasion. Scott’s signature will finally begin to demonstrate that state republicans are choosing to game a system against students and families who chose public schools in their zeal to privatize all schools.