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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why did voucher proponents resist accountability so adamantly?

At the beginning of the legislative session voucher proponents were seeking to triple the amount of funding including opening up sales tax to pay for the vouchers but now as the legislative session winds down all they have gotten are some watered down accountability measures, something they fought against, that don’t include them taking the same test as students who attend public schools.  

Voucher proponents and the administrator of them, Step up for Students said to anybody who would listen that the program is important and tens of thousands of more needy families wanted in. They could have made sure it happened too and all they had to do was agree that the children who received the vouchers take the same test public school students did. Instead of accepting it however they fought tooth and nail against it.  
Maybe they didn’t think it was necessary that kids take the same test as they ad nauseum said voucher studnets had to take some norm referenced test instead.  But to help all those extra families why didn’t they just agree, why did they let the good be the enemy of the perfect.

I think it is because they know their voucher program is more akin to a house of cards than an education network. I think they know that if they were to allow the kids that take vouchers to take the same test that public school students do they would perform poorly. But who would expect differently? Private schools that take vouchers don’t have to have certified teachers or even teachers with degress, they don’t have recognized curriculums and many teach creationism as science. David Figilo the states own expert said there are great private schools that take vouchers but really poor ones too and instead of weeding out the poor ones Step up for Student’s goal was to greatly expand the program.

Then the legislators who were for it had to practically twist themselves into knots to find reasons to support it as it went against most of their already stated stances. Many of the same supporters of vouchers said they believe in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) but at the same time they were okay with voucher schools teaching creationism as science.  They say they want all of Florida’s kids to have a great teacher, unless your kid goes to a private schools that takes vouchers, because those teachers don’t have to be certified, let alone have a degree. Then how do we know how they are doing unless we can link them to a test. Now I think that idea is dumb and ineffective but the Florida legislature doesn’t.  Then there is common core which they said will save us all from mediocrity and allow us to compete in the global economy, unless of course your student takes a voucher.

Despite all this, Step up for Students was about to see the amount of money spent on vouchers triple and all they had to do was agree that the kids that took them take the same tests that public schools do and instead they passed.

This complete capitulation should worry everyone whether you support vouchers or not. It should also tell you all you need to know about the program.

It is time the Florida legislature decided to help our public schools instead of putting so much time and resources into schools which want more public money but resist accountability.

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