Saturday, March 29, 2014
It turns out that waiting list for Vouchers doesn't really exist
From the Washington Post's Answer Sheet, by Valerie Strauss
This belongs in the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff category.
The short version:
Florida’s lawmakers are considering expanding a voucher-like tax credit program because, legislators keep saying, there is a huge waiting list of families who want to participate. It turns out that there is no waiting list.
The long version:
The Florida legislature has been considering legislation that would expand the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, a voucher-like scheme that allows public money to be used for private school tuition but wouldn’t require much if anything in the way of accountability from schools that accept vouchers. (For example, the students wouldn’t have to take the high-stakes standardized tests required of public school students.)
The Senate bill’s sponsor, Republican Bill Galvano of Bradenton, wound up pulling the bill after stories about the lack of accountability began to spread, and he cited the accountability measures as the reason for his action. He did not mention an embarrassing video that was uncovered in which Doug Tuthill, the president of Step Up for Students, which administers the tax credit program, talks about how much money his organization spends funding political campaigns. The Tampa Bay Times wrote about the video in this story, which said in part:
Just when people thought the expansion of the program was dead in the legislature for the year, Florida House members found a way to resurrect it by combining it with another reform bill still alive. What will happen is unclear.
But the larger point is that the expansion of the program has been pushed by Step Up For Students based on what it and supportive legislators have said is a very, very long waiting list of families who want to participate. Rep. Erik Fresen, a Republican from Miami who was one of the legislators who figured out how to keep the expansion idea alive, said at a hearing in Tallahassee about the bill that there is a waiting list of families seeking the tax credits that now stands “at 100,00 students.” During the debate about the legislation, a figure of 34,000 families on a waiting list has been thrown about, as have other figures.
Specifically citing such numbers suggests there is an actual waiting list. But, it turns out, there isn’t. After school activists and reporters asked for details about the waiting list, Step Up For Students acknowledged that, alas, it doesn’t really keep one. There aren’t any people on the waiting list because there isn’t a waiting list. Why?
Jon East, of the redefinED blog, which is published by Step Up For Students, wrote in this post:
Mostly for show? The organization has sought an expansion of the program, and legislators have cited the waiting list as a reason for funding it.