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School choice politics could hurt Scott’s reach out on public schools

by John Kennedy | February 2nd, 2014

After slashing $1.3 billion from schools his first year as governor, Rick Scott has struggled to convince public school advocates that he is on their side by pouring money into classrooms and teacher raises during subsequent years of his term.

Now, as he faces a brutal reelection contest, Scott’s fellow Republican leaders may be reopening old wounds, floating a new proposal to expand a school voucher program that has long antagonized Florida’s biggest teachers’ union and many school boards.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said last week he wants a “massive expansion” of school choice efforts this year, including beefing up the scholarship program that redirects hundreds of millions of potential tax dollars from public budgets into private schools.

The move is giving Democrats and their allies more campaign talking points as they strive to portray Scott and his party as indifferent to public schools and eager to shift tax dollars into private hands.

“We’re definitely concerned about an expansion of this corporate voucher program,” said Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the Florida Education Association. “The schools that receive state money through this program aren’t accountable.”

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program will spend as much as $286 million this year to send 59,674 low-income students, mostly black or Hispanic, to more than 1,400 private schools across the state, three-fourths of them faith-based. The program, created in 2002, gives corporations dollar-for-dollar tax credits in exchange for donations they make to a private, non-profit group, which then passes the money to low-income parents for private school tuition.

Under legislation sponsored by Weatherford in 2010, the program’s funding was allowed to grow annually and will reach $357.8 million in scholarship money next year.

But Weatherford doesn’t think that’s enough.

He was joined last week by Senate President Don Gaetz, D-Niceville, in saying that broadening the program will be a priority when the Legislature convenes March 4.

Weatherford offered no specifics. But program supporters say almost 35,000 more students may be interested in drawing scholarships, which could demand an additional $150 million for the program.

“We’re going to do a massive expansion of choice for families,” Weatherford said.

Full story here:  bit.ly/LEWmsE

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2 Responses to “School choice politics could hurt Scott’s reach out on public schools”

  1. Dave Says:

    Wrong, unconstitutional, self-serving, damaging to children in Florida…should I go on?

  2. Joe Says:

    Just imagine the reaction affluent parents and all those working 2nd jobs so they can afford private school for their child will have to this ridiculous proposal. And after paying $12k in tuition, still have to endure their child sitting next to a potential bad influence who’s parents didn’t pay a dime for them to be there just like they would have done in public school . The same thing applies to the total school choice idea some in the GOP are floating. Why do I pay more in taxes to maintain a home in a district with good public schools or sacrifice some of life’s pleasures to pay for private school? So I can choose to isolate my child from the bad elements in our society and have the best chance of him or her getting a good education of course. I don’t want the thug life culture bussed into my child’s private school. Where is my right to choose what I want for my child in this proposal? This may sound cold but that’s human nature people. Think about it, if republicans were the least bit concerned about the plight of the disenfranchised we would have had single payer health care and free university education for all regardless of ones ability to pay many years ago. This proposal is nothing more than the GOP’s zeal to strip funds from a government based union backed employer to private enterprise where the cost of doing business is much less because workers are not protected. It’s an assault against the public school system in general which so many in the GOP feel is nothing but a bastion of liberal indoctrination. So be careful what you wish for (vote for) because it can backfire in a big way. The have’s want as much segregation from the have not’s as legally possible and as far as their concerned it’s for a good reason. Leave private school to the people who are willing to pay for it and public tax dollars for the public school system as intended and everything will be fine. Screw with the balance of nature on this issue and pay the consequences.

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