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Voucher Scams: Floridians Should Be Fighting the Privatization of Public Schools

| May 6, 2014

Who's paying? (Rupert Ganzer)

Who’s paying? (Rupert Ganzer)

Daniel Tilson

Call me a defiant “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” parent of a Florida public school student. And I’m looking for a few — a few million — good men and women to join me in battle.

Click On:

We’re decades into a war waged by shadowy business interests and religious groups, working through “cooperative” (co-opted) legislators and governors. They “won” the latest skirmish after the Republican Party of Florida (and some Blue Dog Democrats) engineered passage of an unpopular voucher expansion bill in the final minutes of the final day of the 2014 legislative session.

This is another attack in a very well-funded, well-organized and well-executed campaign. That’s why it succeeds so often. The goal is to gradually undermine most of the state’s public schools and ultimately privatize them.

For all of us who believe tax dollars earmarked for education should be almost entirely dedicated to improvingpublic schools, the time has come to implement our own new strategy for success.

We need to reach out and join forces in our local communities statewide, sharing information, brainstorming, consensus-reaching and coalition-building.

We need everybody to know that vouchers came along in the 19th century with the sole purpose of allowing families in rural areas far from a public school to use their kids’ taxpayer-funded allotment to attend a private school nearby.

Than came conservative Republican economist Milton Friedman in the 1950s, suggesting that transplanting kids and tax dollars from public to private schools would encourage “competition” and make all schools better.

That theory remained mostly theoretical until it went on steroids in the early 2000s, when George W. Bush was president, and brother Jeb was Florida governor. That’s when a combination of religious special interests, corporate profit-seekers and “cooperative” Republicans turned up the heat on public schools.

context floridaBefore you knew it, there was a new approach to “grading” schools and students. Testing became big business…especially for another Bush brother, Neil, who had an “educational software” company called Ignite! Learning. Next thing you know, we had “No Child Left Behind,” teachers “teaching to the test,” “failing” schools…and the Bush family making millions off it all.

At the very same time public schools were being thrown into turmoil, voucher legislation was advanced for parents and children looking to escape the turmoil.

Interesting timing, huh?

Two types of students have been most targeted for vouchers. First, the best and brightest, kids whose families mostly couldn’t afford private school — and whose departure from public school made the school’s grade and funding drop further.

Then, to build popular support for privatization, a far larger group of kids was targeted — children of poor families, often in troubled inner-city schools. Most poor parents told by privatizers they have a Choice to put their kidinto a private school…don’t ask questions. Except, “Where do we sign?”

So, the most underfunded, underperforming schools lose more funding, underperform further, and often close. But private, for-profit “charter” schools are lined up waiting to take their place.

How about that?

Well, that and the rest of the privatization conspiracy will leave us with a two-tiered education system: the top tier profit-driven and unduly unaccountable; the bottom tier…don’t ask.

Whether you’re a conservative, liberal, moderate, Republican, Democrat, independent, it’s time to pitch in to save our public education system before it’s too late.

It’s time to forget the labels that divide us, and stake out the common ground that unites us, in common cause: Doing what it takes to defeat the forces battling to privatize our public schools.

Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. 

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30 Responses for “Voucher Scams: Floridians Should Be Fighting the Privatization of Public Schools”

  1. Ogrethetop says:

    I have 2 children at flagler public schools. When I teacher suggest that I use my private funds to make up for the schools short coming’s was the day I deiced that public schools didn’t want my money and would give the “for profit” school a chance. I’m already signed up for the “for- profit” school. On a side note, 20 hours of service to the school will help me keep track of how my kids are doing.

    Try to get every public school parent to give 20 hours of service to your public school, and see how much better that school will be…

    • Idon'ththinkso says:

      I believe that they should do away with vouchers. If you want your child to go to a private school then pay for it. Don’t expect other people to pay for you. I know many Teachers and I do not think it is fair to expect them to come out of their own pockets for the tools that benefit your child’s education.

      • Bill says:

        I don’t get this mindset??? ~ If you want your child to go to a private school then pay for it. Don’t expect other people to pay for you. ~ Well that’s exactly what does happen now! people with no kids pay for those with kids parents do not pay for the full cost. The $$ should follow the KID Why should only GOVERNMENT schools get funding to educate kids??? As long as a school teaches the same basic things as government schools the parents should be able to make the choice on what school is best for their kids.

    • Out of Curiosity says:

      And if you can’t do the 20 hours of service, you PAY a fee.

  2. Bob says says:

    The only insightful statement in Mr. Tilson’s article is the first paragraph, “[Parents] are mad as hell and there not going to take it anymore”. He’s correct, there not going to take Washington medaling, teacher unions, under performing schools and local politics. Those “shadowy businesses” and “religious groups” that contribute to and support vouchers are the places where we work all week and worship God on Sunday.

    Tilson would have us believe that public schools began to fail when highly motivated, high achieving kids left the school system; yet corresponding public school improvement is not noted when inner-city poor leave failing public schools. Perhaps Mr. Tilson, parents are “choosing” the best and most challenging option for their kids in the case of the former and trying to avoid drugs, gangs and incompetence in the case of the latter. No one is forced to take a voucher, parents choose to do so.

    And just in case Mr. Tilson hasn’t convinced the reader that his far left position of more money to public education is the only solution for failing public schools, he invokes the name of George Bush and the Bush family as the source of all our public schools ills, come on, really sir!

    If I were you Mr. Tilson I would be more concerned about the backlash to come. If four years of Jimmy Carter brought on the Reagan Revolution, then after eight year of the most extreme, far left administration in the history of our Country it will surely usher in a period of prosperity and, yes, educational choice for all parents. Employment not public assistance for college graduates might again become the norm.

    I look forward to the day when every cent of State and Federal school money follows the student to a school chosen by the parents. “Were mad as hell and were not going to take it!”

    • A.S.F. says:

      @Bob says says–May I suggest that the parents you speak of who are so mad that they “aren’t going to take it anymore” funnel their anger, time and energy into actually volunteering at the public schools that they think are letting down their little lambs? In other words, put your money AND your time AND your commitment where your mouth is. And stop expecting teachers to do the total job for you. YOU brought these kids into the world. Their future is (or should be) YOUR primary responsibility, not somebody else’s. By the way, teachers in private schools don’t magically become better teachers because they work in private schools. There have been PLENTY of cases of reported AND non-reported abuse in private schools. Case in point: The sexual molestation of children by priests (and others) in so-called Christian institutions. Stop blaming the Left for all the evils in the world .and touting by the Right’s “magic bullet” theory of education. It’s a waste of time (and, potentially, as pertains to vouchers, a waste of MY taxpayer dollars.)

  3. Anonymouse says:

    If you want to fix things in florida schools, here’s what you do.

    1. Stop requiring that teachers have degrees in education. Instead, require that they have at least a bachelors degree: for k-6, the bachelors should be in a field related to child rearing and development. 7 and up, require that they have a degree in the subject that they want to teach.

    2. Stop allowing administrative positions to be anything other than appointed within the school, with a set lifetime. Want to be principal? Term limits, and the employees of the school need to vote you in. Also, you aren’t going to get a huge bump in pay, just a few extra grand to make the extra work worth it.

    3. Stop handing out laptops to students. Stop lecturing with powerpoints. Get cellphones and other distractions out of the classroom. It has been conclusively demonstrated, by UCLA researchers, that students that take notes on laptops in the classroom perform consistently badly all around. See this huffo article:

    4. Stop demanding that your teachers be unhuman machines. They’re people, with flaws, just like the rest of us. Stop tying your teachers’ hands when it comes to discipline in the classroom. Stop making meaningless administrative busywork for your teachers and let them concentrate on teaching. Put more responsibility on your parents.

  4. Sherry Epley says:

    Great Article and right on @ Anonymouse! 100% of our education tax dollars should be used for PUBLIC schools only!

    Our current education system is a great example of the widening divide between the “Haves” and the rest of the population of our state and of our country. Turning over the quality of education in our state/country to schools focused primarily on “maximizing profit” will doom the education of our future generations! Our country is already behind many other 1st world countries. Privatizing our schools will NOT create better education for ALL students!

  5. confidential says:

    I do not pay school taxes so well political connected private corporations make a good profit of it!. My school taxes are to educate our children and future leaders. This is the Republican pushed agenda about privatizing it all if we let them, they will privatize too our law enforcement and fire emergency services too.
    Yes I totally agree with Mr. Tilson lest get out, unite and fight off the GOP agenda geared against our middle and lower classes well being.
    They have managed already to privatize our prisons with the excuse of saving tax dollars pure BS!
    My kids went to the same public schools that they are and want to privatize nowadays and are good citizens loved in their communities, always drug and alcohol free, law abiding and compassionate with their communities and very successful as well. But when my kids went to school I was closely involved with them and their school activities and I was what you may call a zealot parent when it came to monitor for any drug or any other pernicious potential school peer pushed addiction. But also as parents we never even think about using any of that stuff ourselves…maybe clean cut, dedicated parents is what makes the difference and not some for profit school system sucking up even more our pockets now. Also we need some new school board members, because the things they approve and the personal examples some give to our students are deplorable and totally out of context with real education. Got to clean up Tallahassee in the incoming elections.

  6. Concerned Citizen says:

    At the core of the many forms of abuse is the ugly little issue of “power and control” and some will do all sorts of things in an attempt to maintain it.

    We have antitrust laws in place in this country to avoid monopolies. People who talk like this want to have control over other people’s money to be spent on their ideals alone. If the rising violence in the public school system isn’t enough to prove the system is broken and getting worse, what is?

    While freedom of speech is still admired, it may be wise to heed, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.” ~ Psalm 14: 1

  7. rickg says:

    For those who may have not noticed the decline in our education system here in Florida began with the Rs taking over the Governorship and Legislature in 1998. Since then more and more funds have been diverted to “for profit” institutions. “For Profit” institutions do not have the student’s best interest in mind. They have their shareholders interest in mind. Please wake up Floridians to this right wing takeover of Florida.

  8. nomad says:

    Schools are taxpayer funded and parents are the majority taxpayers so parents ARE already paying for schooling. They are now demanding choice and rightfully so.

    • A.S.F. says:

      @nomad says–Not everyone who pays taxes has children in school. I don’t mind my tax dollars going to the education of children–they are the future, after all–but their parents don’t get the total say in making public policy when it’s EVERYONE’S tax dollars at stake. If parents believe so strongly that private schools are so much better than public ones (debatable), they can pay for it out of their own pockets. They chose to have these children. They can pay for the extras above and beyond what the public can reasonably be expected to provide.

  9. Lin says:

    To share ideas, brainstorm, fix our schools, is great goal.

    To fight privatization of schools just because someone may make a profit is exactly the problem. Who does this help? In looking at vouchers across the country, I find that in some locations charter or voucher schools are way more successful than the public alternative and that parents are fighting to keep them open. What is wrong with having an alternative to the “system”? The employees and administration are making a living in public schools just as the employees are in the charter/voucher schools. What is the difference? Vast majority are not religious and what is wrong with religion anyway?

    Why not take what is working in both arenas and use it for the students? The public schools with their rules and policies and unions fighting change are part of the problem.

    Let’s not fight each other, let’s do what is right for the kids — look at what is working (in other schools across the country) to help our schools and leave politics out of it.

    • A.S.F. says:

      @Lin says–I agree we should work towards the betterment of our schools. You can do this with public schools without giving up on them. Taking money away from them is the fastest path to their further deterioration and/or demise. Don’t dump all your dissatisfactions in the laps (and on the heads) of teachers. Their job is tough enough. Increasingly, they have been asked to act more and more in “loco parentis.” and do the job that parents should be doing and say they no longer have the time to do. You ask, “What is wrong with religion anyway?” Here what’s wrong, Lin says: It doesn’t belong in the schools. If you want your kids to go to a parochial religiously oriented school, then feel free pay for one yourself. My tax dollars should not be going towards someone else’s religious orientation. There are already plenty of “alternatives” to the system. Parents can feel free to pay for them–or you can homeschool. If the public schools in a particular community are not good enough, the parents in that community should be the first to come forward to make them better–not to desert them for some wishful “magic bullet.”I am getting really tired of hearing people targeting teachers en masse as the cause of all their dissatisfactions, as though the teachers are solely to blame. And I don’t know what “rules and policies” of the public schools you are objecting to so much. You don’t think schools need “rules and policies?” You don’t think that voucher schools will have “rules and policies’ of their own? Exactly what “rules and policies” are you referring to that are so objectionable? Please enlighten us. Inquiring minds want to know!

  10. RHWeir says:

    Agree, 100%. Also, end “virtual school” unless the kid is totally bedridden. Take a walk thru Walmart on any given school day you will find it packed with families with school age children in tow. Went fishing at Bings today. The place was full of families with school age kids. The kids belong in school being socialized and acclimated to society. If the schools are that bad here and the situation is so out of control, it may be a good idea to take your kids “back up north” and leave the retirement community to the retirees.

    • Max Awesomeness says:

      Virtual schools are a way for schools to get funds for students but not actually offer any services to them. It’s a total scam.

  11. truth monitor says:

    School voucher program is one big cash cow to those board of directors and administration. They are mostly using the money to pay out extremely high salaries and benefits to their employed family members and friends. Can anyone state how many charter schools fail and who kept the unspent education money.
    I remember a principal of a charter school who left a failed school and kept double her salary as a separation cost. Charter school are just a money pot for the higher ups..Legalize theft would be a good definition for the school voucher program.

  12. Sherry Epley says:

    Yes! We should allow parents and students their choice of PUBLIC (supported by tax dollars) schools to attend. Transportation to that school “out of the neighborhood” should be the responsibility of the family.

    However, if a family chooses any kind of PRIVATE school, then they should pay the total cost for that school. Our tax dollars (AKA vouchers) should NOT be used to fund PRIVATE (AKA Charter/Religious) schools!

    Think of it this way. . . neither should our tax dollars be used to pay tuition for kids to attend a PRIVATE college instead of a STATE school.

  13. Sherry Epley says:

    Very interesting and informational article on charter schools. . . everyone should take the time to read this thoroughly:

  14. Lin says:

    A.S.F. You are seeing things in my post that aren’t there. I was saying that we should leave politics out of vouchers/charter education and use their successes to help all kids.

    There was no criticism of teachers. In fact, my grandchild is getting a great education here in Flagler. My husband is a teacher (not in the district). But an example of a policy that didn’t help the district — A teacher we know with a Masters Degree was up for a job in Flagler but was told they couldn’t hire her because they could only pay the starting pay. She wanted the job and was willing to take the starting pay but I guess the rules prevented that happening. I guess the union/contract prevented that from happening. Also, there has been a lot in the news about the higher pay for higher degrees. Why? Aren’t all teachers qualified to teach? Other professions have requirements and are not paid extra for what they should be doing anyway. A degree doesn’t guarantee competence. Some beginner teachers are better teachers. And how about the resistance of the teachers being held accountable for their performance. I’m not criticizing individual teachers — this is a union issue. I’m not dumping anything on anyone. You are defensive and politicizing my opinions. The comment about religion meant that if a charter/voucher school is giving students a great education whether religious or not those methods should be considered in public schools minus the religion. Most charter schools are not religiously based anyway. When a taxpayer pays School Taxes, having the choice to send their kids to a maybe better charter school does not take away from the public schools. The public schools may just have less students to spend money on and pay personnel for. The union doesn’t want to lose dues paying members and political control. I look at the teachers and the union leadership differently. Teachers want to do a good job and do the best for their students, Sometimes the unions goals conflict with the best interests of the students and the teachers are stuck in the middle

    I look at it this way — the district spends X$s to educate a student whether charter school, choice school or public school. The parent decides that the Charter School is better but this school that also employs teachers and administrators also happens to make a profit, should we say NO? It is not costing any more money, the student is getting a better education, teachers are being employed. The only loser here is a centralized union.

    I’m looking at the best methods to teach our kids no matter where they come from. I’m not saying only charter schools/vouchers are good. Lots of wonderful things happening in public schools. But lets not close our minds to other possibilities just because a profit is made by someone. Why is profit such a dirty word? One of the problems with public anything is that centralized control prevents innovation.

  15. Anonymous says:

    @Lin says–I think your first comment was very obvious in its political bias, especially the throwaway comment about “What wrong with religion anyway?”If your grandchild is getting a “great education here in Flagler” then you really have even less reason to complain about the the “policies and procedures” in the schools here and the teacher’s unions that help ensure that the teachers in those classrooms meet minimum qualifications to be placed there. If your husband, who you say once WAS a teacher, receives a pension for the fine work he did, you have even more reason to be grateful for teacher unions. But, of course, if he is retired and those unions are not as important to your personal welfare anymore, perhaps you feel differently.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Funny, isn’t it, how Conservatives can dump all over teacher’s unions for advocating for adequate compensation for teachers in order to to attract and retain talented teachers but they can excuse the obscene salaries and benefits packages that CEO’s and the upper echelon on Wall Street, even after they screw up with the argument that we need to compensate them lavishly in order to retain their talent and wisdom. I guess some people in big business are entitled to be covered under that philosophy and others, like those in the teaching profession and government workers, are not.

  17. Say What? says:

    The fact that these “for profit” charter schools keep closing and failing should be evidence enough that it’s not the way to go. Parents think that it will magically fix all of their problems, but that obviously is not the case. Be a parent, man up and take some responsibility for your offspring.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Why is it only government schools should get tax dollars I guess its not about the kids but government

    • A.S.F. says:

      @Anonymous says–Uh, because tax dollars are not supposed to fund private businesses nor are they supposed to fund the private school ambittions of parents who expect other people to pay for what they, the parents, are not saving money for out of their own budgets. I agree that the parents should have the highest amount of concern for their childrens’ educations…and THEY should make every sacrifice they can to fprward those ambitions, whether it means funding a parochial education of their choosing or volunteering their time and efforts to improve the quality of the public schools they have such great concern about.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Wow so many have such HATE for any change?? Why not let Parents chose with the $$ that already would be spent on the kids as to what school would be best for their kids education??

    • A.S.F. says:

      @Anonymous Says–Because it would mean the further deterioration and demise of public schools…and the parents themselves are not the only ones contributing the money involved.

  20. barbie says:

    Blue Dog Democrats are a scourge on the Democratic Party. If people were smart, they’d quit buying the fantasy that “conservative” Democrats must run in a “conservative” district. That is nonsense, and it’s cover for “fake” Democrats to constantly vote Republican, so they can all pat each other on the back and call themselves “bi partisan” while they continue screwing over regular people.

    That’s true on the Federal level as well as on the State level. Yes, Patrick Murphy, I am looking at you, too.

    If you, the candidate, are going to run as, or claim to represent the platform and ideology of the Democratic Party, then you need to stop voting like a Republican. Period. Be a liberal, and be proud of it. Stop lying to yourself and everyone else. If you, the voter, are stupid enough to vote for a “conservative” Democrat, stop letting others fool you and stop fooling yourself. There is no such thing.

  21. ryan says:

    They lead to the same thing that many public schools do. They strip children of their identity by forcing them into school uniforms, and fill kids heads with over opinionated, under factual information, as well as giving an equal platform to the bully and the victim, as disgusting as it is.

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