Reports Leslie Postal in the Orlando Sentinel:
The Florida Legislature has sent Gov. Rick Scott the controversial bill that expands the state’s largest school voucher program. Scott has 15 days to decide what to do with the bill (SB 850). A number of education advocacy groups, including the Florida PTA, hope he vetoes it, though that seems unlikely given its support among leaders in his Republican Party.
The bill would expand the Tax-Credit Scholarship Program, which provides private-school tuition vouchers to students in low-income families. Supporters say the program provides an important choice for parents whose kids may be struggling in public school but cannot afford other options on their own.
But opponents dislike that many of the participating private schools are religious, arguing the state should not be supporting religious education.
Postal is correct in that Scott’s veto is unlikely. So why all the intrigue? Why was in announced during a Friday afternoon news dump? And what took so long?
Scott and his handlers know that support for SB 850 isn’t a wide-spread as republican legislators would have Floridians believe. A Sunshine State News poll taken this part spring revealed that an overwhelming amount of Floridians – 55 to 45 – opposed vouchers. Those numbers would expand if Floridians knew that republicans want their voucher schools to take different high-stakes tests than do public schools.
Charlie Crist still leads Scott is recent polling data. While Crist is on record as supporting vouchers, Scott knows whether he signs the bill or not, Crist will seek to make political hay. Scathing Purple Musings predicted this scenario would unfold late last month:
Scott’s handlers know that SB 850 isn’t the winner with Floridians it is in the republican cloak room in Tallahassee. His political handlers may have even preferred that he not see it on his desk this year. It’s curious that they haven’t attempted to get Crist’s position on the record. Nonetheless, look for Scott’s decision on SB 85o to happen on a Friday when Team Crist won’t be able to deploy a rapid response. But make no mistake, Crist, who has proved to be the ultimate political opportunist, is relishing the chance to take the contrarian view on vouchers.
So the clock is running, and it is perfectly aligned to allow Scott to make his decision two weeks from now – on another Friday.