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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vouchers, welfare for the well off on the horizon

From the Florida Tribune

by Kim MacQueen

During the 2010 election, Gov. Rick Scott campaigned on a platform of expanding choice in Florida's K-12 schools, and briefly flirted with a "vouchers for all"-type program, which would open up private school vouchers to every Florida family.

Though he backed off the idea soon after taking office -- "we have a lot of choice now," he said back in February -- a number of other voucher-expansion measures are now being heard in both the House and Senate.

Last week, a House panel gave a thumbs-up to a bill that would vastly expand the McKay Scholarship Program, which provides private school vouchers to children with certain diagnosed disabilities. And this week, the Senate Education PreK-12 Committee will take up a bill to let parents take the money the state spends on their child's education and use it to pay not only for private school but to save for college, too.

SB 1550, by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, deals with education savings accounts, using the same terms as emerged from Scott's transition documents as he took office. Under Negron's bill, parents would be able to take 40 percent or even more of the money the state pays for them to attend Florida's public schools -- currently at a little more than $6,000 a year -- and use it to pay for private school or invest it for college. For every public school student taking advantage of the program, the state would invest another 40 percent of that per-student funding to a student who's currently home-schooled.

Jaryn Emhof, with the Foundation for Florida's Future, called the measure "the ultimate in school choice." The organization worked with Negron to develop the legislation, aping a similar measure in Arizona and research from the Goldwater Institute.

Florida Education Association Attorney Ron Meyer says SB 1550 definitely fits the "vouchers for all" definition and "has serious constitutional problems."

Meyer says the bill would divert public money to fund private education and would be contrary to the state constitution. The state Supreme Court has previously struck down a voucher program begun under former Gov. Jeb Bush that gave students "opportunity scholarships."

"Were SB 1550 to become law, I suspect that the many organizations which challenged Bush's opportunity scholarship vouchers would challenge this program, as well," he said.

Emhof acknowledges that it's late in the session for such an expansive measure, and that the bill might not see the light of day this year. But she says, "this is not going to be the last time that people in Florida hear about education savings accounts."

"It's not going away, and that's because it truly empowers the parent," Emhof said. "Do we intend to bring this bill back next year? Probably so."

1 comment:

  1. Oh, great! Now parents have $6000 year to spend on their child's education - or else! That gives them $500 a months, or 10 private lessons with a tutor per month. Divide those 10 lessons by 5-6 courses/subjects the child is taking, and you will get a perfect model of education : 2 hours of math per month, 2 hours of chemistry, etc. HOW EMPOWERING!!!The child will definitely make it to Harvard!!!