So Florida’s Voucher Program is Costing Taxpayers After All

The political arm of Florida’s voucher program have long scoffed at the idea that it’s program, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, didn’t take money away from public schools. Maybe not directly, but Rick Scott’s recent proposal to increase property taxes to pay for an increase in per pupil funding screams otherwise. From Tampa Bay Times columnist Steve Bousquet:

TALLAHASSEE — In touting his plan for record school spending, Gov. Rick Scott is ignoring a fact that concerns some of his fellow Republicans: He wants property taxpayers to pay more

Scott’s $77 billion budget, awaiting review by the Legislature, includes $842 million more for public schools, raising per pupil spending to its highest level.

More than half of the increase would come from higher property taxes paid by homeowners and business owners as a result of growth in property values.

That’s definitely a tax increase, a leading Republican legislator says.

“It is a tax increase if you’re a property taxpayer who gets a tax bill that will go up next year compared to this year. Property taxpayers will look at that and say ‘That’s a tax increase,'” says Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, an architect of the next education budget as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

Gaetz said that as local property taxes account for a growing share of school district budgets, school boards deserve more autonomy.

Scathing Purple Musings has been highly critical of Gaetz in the past, but Floridians should shudder to think of what Tallahassee will be like without him. He routinely attempts to take his colleagues to the middle ground and makes them consider options. His alignment with democrat senator Bill Montford and republican senator John Legg have headed off some really bad legislation. Gaetz’ signal that “school boards deserve more autonomy” – in any context – is a welcome statement.

. When considering the potential haul for FTCS from administrator Step Up for Students being set at $700 million within the few years along with the news that Scott wants an increase in homeowner taxes to pay for public schools, its clear that “tax credit” for corporations is little more than a tax deferment.

I doubt that Gaetz ever really bought into the gambit that the Tax Credit Scholarship was ever really tax or school funding neutral. He knew the day would come when Florida – a state with no income tax – would have to find more money to fund schools. That day is obviously here now. And it is going to be obvious to Floridians that the FTCS is going to have to be paid for by them and not a bunch or rich corporations nobly shifting their tax burden to a program favored by republican legislators.

Moreover, with Scott’s admission that the state needs more taxpayer money – and not revenues – its clear that Jeb Bush’s idea to call it a “tax credit scholarship” was a sham from the start. Step Up for Students runs a voucher program paid for by actual Florida taxpayers. And as it operates without the same test-base accountability system as do traditional public schools, its separate and unequal.




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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