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Sunday, December 12, 2010

From those to whom much is given, much is expected

By Julie Delegul

Parity in Accountability for Voucher Schools

Governor-elect Rick Scott announced that he wants to offer every student in Florida a private school voucher. Currently, the state offers vouchers to low income students through a tax diversion called the Tax Credit Scholarship. Florida also offers vouchers straight from the state treasury to students with disabilities, the McKay voucher.

Scott’s new policy push calls for a review of what’s right and what’s wrong with these two voucher programs. Never mind that the Florida Supreme Court threw out a less ambitious voucher program than Scott’s when Jeb Bush was governor. (The court said then that public education dollars could only be spent on “uniform” public schools.) Something much more important than the law is at stake: educational quality for students.

Empirical studies belie the notion that private schools educate our children better than public schools do. When socio-economic status and race are accounted for, US DOE studies say that private schools don’t get better results. Further, Florida’s own studies showed that private voucher school students performed no better than their closest-matched public school peers on standardized test gains, during the two years the state took data on the issue.

Arguably, we need more studies. But we no longer have an apples-to-apples means of comparing voucher schools to public schools because the legislature slashed the norm-referenced Stanford 10 for Florida’s public schools. Perhaps lawmakers don’t want researchers, voters, taxpayers and parents to make those comparisons any more. After all, if private schools were actually better, wouldn’t they want to demonstrate it on a common playing field?

Parity in accountability should also extend to McKay voucher schools. Providing progress for individual students with disabilities, based on commonly accepted scientific standards as embodied in individual education plans, is the law of the land. For the sake of students, their families, and taxpayers, private schools receiving state money must not be deemed exempt from laws which protect disabled students.

Until we devise systems by which private schools are held accountable in exact parity to public schools—using apples-to-apples testing instruments—we ought not be directing any more taxpayer money their way


  1. Freedom of choice is what is at stake. Shouldn't parents be allowed to judge what is best for their kids. You sound like a teacher or other member of the educational establishment who has a vested interest in the costly, underperforming government school system (PS The teachers Union dues go to elect Democrats. Oh my!)

  2. Should I not get to pick what police i have then or fire fighteres. I don't believe in our foreighn policy can I get a voucher to pay for my defence. The correct answer is to put policies and procedures in place that make a public education more viable, than stealing from public schools. Then if that didn't work well we would have to try something different.

    Also don't buy the hype, the vast majority of teachers have one allegiance and thats to their students.