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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

6.9 million tax payer dollars go to voucher management, not vouchers in Florida

From Scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes

In this morning’s investigative piece in the Palm Beach Post, it was revealed that the voucher group that runs Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship receives a lot of money as a management fee.
Many of Florida’s Republican leaders came of political age under Bush. The charter, online and voucher industry also have become a steady source of major campaign dollars, mostly for Republican candidates, according to state records reviewed by The Palm Beach Post.
Charter Schools USA gave $215,450 during the last campaign, most of it going to the Florida Republican Party and the Florida Federation for Children, a political spending committee chaired by John Kirtley, who helped create the state’s program that gives corporations tax credits for money they contribute to education vouchers for low-income students to attend private schools, including religious ones.
Scott spoke in December at a dinner honoring the corporate tax-credit scholarship program, which now serves more than 50,000 students and receives $229 million from corporations that otherwise would have gone to state taxes.
Under legislation sponsored by Weatherford two years ago, before he was House speaker, the credit is set to grow to $286 million next year.
For directing the program, Kirtley’s organization, Step Up for Students, receives 3 percent for management fees this year, or almost $6.9 million.
Step Up for Students, which hasn’t posted an annual report of its website since 201o, has offices in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville. Its 2011 report doesn’t appear to include an internal audit. As Kirtley’s Florida Federation for Children spent $1.5 million in Florida campaigns last fall, it can be assumed that some of it’s management fees goes into political activities. Step Up for Student’s policy and public affairs director, Jon East, made the curious case late last year opposing making schools receiving vouchers through his organization to the same accountability standard as are Florida’s public schools.
Oversight of Step Up for Students voucher administration will be conflicted when Tony Bennett takes over as education commissioner later this month. Kirtley’s American Federation for Children donated to his Indiana campaign in 2011

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