The school voucher movement’s political and propaganda arm is at work today. Step Up for Students is touting via twitter a TV advertisement by Hispanic CREO that will appear in Florida during today’s broadcast of the Super Bowl:
MIAMI, FLA. – A new television ad, debuting in Tallahassee during this Sunday’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLIX, features a Hispanic high school sophomore from South Florida making a plea to continue the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship program. The scholarships are the focus of a lawsuit filed by the Florida Teacher’s Union and School Boards Association. The legal challenge aims to end the 13-year old program, which would evict nearly 70-thousand Florida students from their current schools.
Valentin Mendez is the student featured in the advertisement. In the ad, he shares how he spent his early middle school years being bullied, feeling lost in a sea of faces and failing his classes.
“I tried different schools but bad things kept happening,” Valentin says in the testimonial spot that can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHQ4ESIHWPg&feature=youtu.be. “It was a nightmare that wouldn’t end. Then my mother learned about the Tax Credit Scholarships program.”
After being awarded a scholarship, Valentin enrolled in La Progresiva, a school that was reopened in Miami in 1971 after Fidel Castro forced its closure in Cuba ten years earlier. The teen calls his new school a dream come true. He is making good grades and has aspirations on becoming a doctor or businessman.
The ad also features the teen’s mother, Jeannthe Ruiz, who speaks from the heart about the importance her family places on hard work and what a good education means to her son’s future. Jeannthe works the night shift at a gas station, while Valentin’s father is employed at a tire shop.
“These are hard-working families who want to do what’s best to ensure a promising future for their children,” said Julio Fuentes, President and CEO of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), the sponsor of the ad. “It confounds me why anyone would want to eliminate this scholarship and dash the dreams of young students, from low-income families, who are finally getting the chance to succeed in the classroom and work their way toward a better life. Isn’t that what the American Dream is all about?”
Hispanic CREO’s selection of a student from La Progressiva with its link to Cuban oppression, is a cynical coercion of emotions which completely ignores the American dreams of Hispanic children who are attending Florida public schools. Moreover, the advertisement is another example of the trend in the policies of the school choice movement – that includes charter schools – to re-segregate the nation. And as the executive director of the nation’s local school boards pointed out this week:
The further irony is “choice” can mean public tax dollars siphoned away from community schools to subsidize for-profit ventures. Vouchers, tuition tax credits and charter schools not governed by local school boards create a secondary, profit-driven system of education that strains limited resources and risks re-segregating schools, economically and socially, by admitting only certain, top-performing students.
Hispanic CREDO deliberately misleads Floridians on the nature of the “tax credit scholarship.” The release reads:
Unlike voucher programs that receive direct funding from the state treasury, no direct state budget dollars are used to support the Florida tax credit scholarships. Corporations receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits in return for contributions to the program fund the scholarships.
Tax credits for corporations such as alcohol distributorships take part in what’s essentially a corrupt tax diversion program by taking part in a favored program of Florida’s republican-dominated legislature. Tax revenues which might have gone to support of all state programs are diverted in a way which gives corporate tax credit participants favored status with the party in power in Tallahassee.
The passage of the expansion of the tax credit scholarship program during last year’s legislative session prompted the lawsuit as it permanently put in place two separate and unequal programs. The public school system, which CREO hope Floridians presume to be failing their constituency, are saddled with burdensome high-stakes tests, school grades and Common Core Standards, while tax credit schools are assured via the new bill to have no such constraints.
If Step Up for Students and CREO were true advocates of all Hispanic children in Florida, they’d be advocating for equal accountability for all – as well as choice. Instead they push a false choice and one limited to what they have chosen.