The proponents of expansion of Florida’s education voucher program formally referred to as the Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program, used more effective strategy during the 2014 Legislative Session by sneaking in voucher expansion during the last days of the Session via SB 850 thereby minimizing public outcry and public spectacle. Unfortunately, as in previous Sessions, the Bill sounds very positive for students in Florida but it is really intended to benefit a few, not the masses.
FEA (Florida Education Association) vice president Joanne McCall offered five reasons to oppose the measure:
"SB 850 creates additional tax loopholes for corporations to fund private and religious schools at the expense of public schools;
"The bill expands the controversial corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program which diverts public money away from our public schools and provides it to private and religious schools with little oversight or accountability. Originally passed by the legislature as a way to provide options to low income students in struggling public schools, the program now funds a parallel system of private and religious schools in Florida;
"With over 80% of the children in this program using these vouchers to attend religious schools, this program violates the will of Florida’s voters who overwhelmingly voted to preserve our state’s constitutional provision regarding the separation of church and state in 2012;
"Private and religious schools accepting these state sponsored vouchers still have little accountability while public schools and public school students are subject to intense scrutiny and demoralizing penalties. Students attending these schools as part of this state-funded program are not required to take the state mandated tests, teachers hired by these schools do not have to be certified and there is no penalty for poor student performance; and
"In addition to expanding the corporate Tax Scholarship Program, this bill also creates a new entitlement program for disabled students participating in home, private and religious school education programs - even though the state continues to underfund the public school programs mandated by the federal government to assist this same population."
Under the guise of school choice, many of the schools in predominantly black neighborhoods have suffered. Apathetic parents and appointed/elected officials that have not been held accountable have contributed to this situation in which public education finds itself. Rather than improve our neighborhood public schools, many parents have been convinced that the neighborhood public schools should be abandoned and their children will be better educated by merely sitting in a different seat in a different building or sitting in the same seat in the same building under the name of a new school.
Click here to tell Governor Rick Scott to Veto SB 850. Private dollars should be used for those who choose to educate their children in private or religious schools. Protect public schools and a free education. Public education is not for sale.