A sweeping proposal to combine Florida’s five major school-voucher programs into two and establish them as taxpayer-backed “education savings accounts” is now teed up for consideration by the full Senate.
Under the measure, existing voucher programs would be folded into two main scholarships, with one serving students with special needs and the other directed at the broader population of students. Both programs would involve the use of education savings accounts, giving parents flexible spending power with 97.5 percent of the current state per-student funding level, or roughly $7,600.
The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced the proposal, sponsored by Hialeah Republican Sen. Manny Diaz, on Thursday.
“This consolidation provides clarity and a streamlined process for parents to access this particular segment of our school system statewide. And it really boils down to the belief, do we trust our parents in the state of Florida, to make the right decisions for their students. And do we believe in providing them the flexibility and freedom to address that,” Diaz said told the panel Thursday,
In a significant expansion of eligibility, Diaz’s plan (SB 48) would allow students who have never been enrolled in public schools to participate in the program. The expansion would include students who attend private school or are homeschooled.
A slew of failed amendments sponsored by Democratic senators sought to change such provisions as the income level families would have to meet to be eligible for the vouchers. Under Diaz’s plan, families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or nearly $80,000 per year for a family of four, would qualify.
“This should be in some way needs based, and really for the truly needy and the income-challenged folks,” said Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point. “I don’t think we should be increasing eligibility, certainly at this level.”
Diaz told the panel that the income eligibility requirements are already in state law under the current Family Empowerment Scholarship program, adding that he thinks families at that income level should be eligible.
“I would argue that a family of four under that number is not a wealthy family by any stretch of the imagination and also should have access to these programs,” he said.
The Senate proposal was met with fierce opposition from public education advocates, who also have advocated against previous school-voucher legislation in Florida.
“I continue to be dismayed by the mischaracterization of this bill as it’s moved through these Senate committees. This is not simply a consolidation of voucher programs and a streamlining of the application process. This bill is a radical transformation of our voucher programs,” said Sue Woltanski, an Monroe County school board member. “There’s no academic standards, there’s no required courseworks, there’s no graduation requirements.”
Diaz has maintained that his bill would not change accountability standards used by participating private schools.
The proposal also changes how contributions are made to organizations that fund scholarships.
Under the state’s current Tax Credit Scholarship program, businesses receive tax credits for contributing money to nonprofit organizations that, in turn, provide scholarships to students to attend private schools.
The bill would create a new state trust fund to serve as a depository for donations from corporations and individuals who would receive tax breaks. Diaz’s plan provides a one-time appropriation of nearly $265,000 to the Department of Revenue to “implement the remittance of payment” from the trust fund to scholarship-funding organizations.
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran would be given authority to suspend or revoke a recipient’s school-voucher, or a private school’s participation in the program, if certain rule violations under Diaz’s plan are found.
Senate Democrats remained opposed to the proposal, but were overridden by Republicans in Thursday’s 11-8 party-line committee vote.
“I don’t bemoan parents choosing how they want to educate their kids. What I do bemoan is what I’ve heard that says these programs, and I’m not including Gardiner and McKay, improve our education system,” said Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville.
Diaz attributed thee Democrats’ objections to a “philosophical disagreement,” but said all senators on the panel have the same goal.
“I believe that every member of the committee and of the Senate has the same intent, and that is that we want to improve our educational system and provide quality education for our students in Florida,” he said.
–Ryan Dailey, News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive
Concerned citizen says
Republicans at it again…tax payer dollars to the wealthy. Public dollars should go to public schools, period. Annualized teachers pay and hours worked teaching, tutoring, assisting our kids year round. Teachers make more money, kids are less bored and learn more, parents save on daycare and camps to cover the 5 months out of the year the teachers aren’t working. Everyone wins. Our educational system is like any other profession, you get out what you put in. Let’s get serious folks, we are falling way behind the world.
Concerned Parent says
Republicans are tax payers as well, and deserve to have a say in how those tax dollars are spent.
Our school system is currently one of the worst in the world, and desperately needs to be improved.
Monopolies, such as government school systems, have no incentives to do better, and don’t.
Competition from private schools can only improve the education of our children, we need more of that.
Parents need less indoctrination of our children by mostly left leaning and sometimes radical school systems, and need to be able to choose schools that support their value systems.
It should not matter how poor or wealthy you are, all deserve the benefit of the tax dollars that you pay, the school system should not be another form of wealth distribution.
Deborah Coffey says
Our school system is one of the worst for exactly the attempts to privatize it by uninformed and fear-ridden Republicans. If you study education in the 23 countries (some you’ve probably never even heard of) that do so much better on the PISA test, you will find that they are “public” in every way and they use the Common Core method of teaching, though they don’t call it by that name. Oh, God forbid that a Black president’s attempt to improve teaching and learning should ever be accepted by racist Republicans. Finally, what this awful legislature is attempting to do here is a PERFECT EXAMPLE of wealth distribution…to their supporters.
Another Concerned Parent says
The United States ranks 21st in math, reading and science despite spending more per student than almost all other countries, so the current system is not working very well, especially for minorities.
The recent example of a mother in Baltimore finding out that her son, instead of graduating, would be “left back” to the 9th grade is a perfect example of an education system that is failing minorities.
A good education is the pathway out of poverty, and the also the pathway to end racism in this country. There are those that think that the government should decide how and where our children are educated, and should be forced to abide, otherwise they will have to pay for their education themselves. The wealthy, especially politicians, would never send their children to government schools. Their children were not affected by the pandemic. It is only those that cannot afford to pay twice, once through their taxes, and then through tuition who are unable to make that choice. Parents can be trusted to make the best choice for their children, and should be able to do so, and should not have to pay twice for the education of their children.
As regards to Common Core, The Huffington Post on May 3, 2017 reported that “In Fall 2015 the NAEP tested a representative sample of high school seniors in the 2016 graduating class. After seven years of Common Core curriculum and assessment, the NAEP tests showed: The average performance of high school seniors dropped in math and failed to improve in reading from 2013 to 2015. So much for common core. If it was meant to improve education, does not seem to have worked.
Both political parties have had tried to improve the education in this country with little success, be it “No Child Left Behind” or “Race To The Top”. As Albert Einstein said, ” Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
Regarding “racist Republicans”:
While slavery was not founded by Southern Democrats, they commercialized it and then tried to secede from the US when it was threatened, and started the Civil War. The Republican Party was founded to abolish slavery and it was a Republican President Lincoln that freed the slaves. The same Republican President that was killed by a slavery advocate for his actions.
The 14th Amendment, giving full citizenship to freed slaves, passed in 1868 with 94% Republican support in congress, and 0% Democrat Support. The 15th Amendment, giving freed slaves the right to vote, passed in 1870 with 100% Republican support and 0% Democrat support in Congress.
When federal troops were removed from the U.S. South at the end of Reconstruction in the late 1870s and the state legislatures of the former Confederacy were no longer controlled by carpetbaggers and African American freedmen, it was Southern Democrat legislatures that began passing Jim Crow laws to continue the segregation of whites and blacks.
The Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1865 by Southern Democrats to resist the Republican Party’s Reconstruction-era policies aimed at establishing political and economic equality for black Americans. An estimated 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites died at the end of KKK ropes from 1882 to 1964.
Republican President Dwight Eisenhower deployed the 82nd Airborne Division to desegregate the Little Rock, Ark., schools over the resistance of Democrat Gov. Orval Faubus.
Republican President Eisenhower signed the GOP’s 1960 Civil Rights Act after it survived a five-day, five-hour filibuster by 18 Senate Democrats.
While Democrat President Lyndon Johnson did sign the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it was only after former Klansman Robert Byrd’s 14-hour filibuster, and the votes of 22 other Senate Democrats, including Tennessee’s Al Gore Sr. On final passage, in the U.S. House of Representatives, 136 out of 171 Republicans (80%) voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while only 153 out of 244 Democrats (only 63%) voted for it. In the U.S. Senate, 27 out of 33 Republicans (82%) voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while only 46 of 67 Democrats did (69%).
Before too much credit is given to President Johnson for his role in the Civil Right Act, his motives may have been more politically motivated than rooted in equality. Some of his less famous quotes;
“These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference”
“Son, when I appoint a n****r to the court, I want everyone to know he’s a n****r .”
“I’ll Have Those N*****s Voting Democratic for 200 Years”
Which party is the party of racism? It is the Democrat Party. The Democrat party seeks to divide and conquer through identity politics.
You are quite right, Democrats were racists, Republicans did a lot of good then. But it was then and now the roles are reversed and you are still blindly following a very racist con-man and approve when your god-like leader do belittle real Republicans like Romney and Cheney to just name two.
These are recent quotes from a cult leader:
“I have black guys counting my money. … I hate it,” Trump told John R. O’Donnell, “The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.”
Speaking to Time magazine for a profile published in January 1989, Trump was asked to give an estimate of his total wealth.
“Who the f knows? I mean, really, who knows how much the Japs will pay for Manhattan property these days?” he asked in response, using a racial slur for the Japanese.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” the president reportedly said. “We should have more people from places like Norway.”
Deborah Coffey says
NO! This is so wrong in every way. Do NOT spend my money on things that are not for PUBLIC good.
I think you meant the GOVERNMENT good. Not the same as the PUBLIC good. I don’t want my money spent on things that are for the GOVERNMENT good, the PUBLIC good I’m okay with.
Can’t help but wonder if this is part of the Republican Plan, they admit they need uneducated voters to win elections. The rises of Trumpism, domestic terrorism and hate of government authority are by products of 50 years of Republicans dismantling of our public education systems. Another fine example of the GOP attempting to destroy State and Federal constitutions, restrict voting, dumb down voters, otherwise they would never win another election.
The unions strike again.
Where’s the “socialism is bad” outcry? Oh wait we’re benefitting the rich so it’s okay. What a bunch of hypocrites.
Sheila Zinkerman says
Gaming the Public School System:
Clue: Some organizations will accept SB-48 public money while openly discriminating against LGBTQ community
Question: What are religious and private schools?
Correct! Same category: “The Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that private schools could lose their tax-exempt status if they discriminate against students based on race. Similarity, courts will also likely determine if private schools that accept public money can discriminate against LGBTQ students.” (Brookings Chalkboard 2020) Don’t put our LGBTQ students in jeopardy for exclusion by sending our SB-48 money to biased religious and private schools that may discriminate. To politicians: Stop gaming the public school system. Say “Aye” to public money only for non-discriminatory public schools!
Email Senator Travis Hutson. Say Nay to SB-48. Politicians monitor public opinion in numbers.
Teachers unions control the narrative today – why? Look at the donations to a political affiliation! Which one? Duuhhh- surely you jest..why would they want competition? They are a bureaucratic monopoly- I find it hard to fathom what harm would be done by allowing parents to have a choice as compared to having self interested bureaucrats have a monopoly. Wonder why parents are on waiting lists to get their kids into private schools?
Deborah Coffey says
Maybe those complaining about the quality of public education should do some research on the outcomes of students attending private schools and of those being homeschooled. How many of those private schools have gotten F grades and how many charter schools in Florida received millions of dollars and never even opened?! You’re in for a shocker. Teachers’ unions are NOT the problem.
Brighter future says
Absolutely correct AND when you look at NY, Chicago, L.A., Washington DC, San Francisco, etc. ALL failed school systems, Cali own gov sends his kids to a better district which is why he does not live in the district he is suppose to live in, bunch of bureaucratic hypocrites, and look at the salaries of the supervisors and administrators in these big cities its disgusting, they don’t care about educating our youth, it’s all political , the dummying of America, and just try to get a teaching job in a good district, good luck it’s all nepotism. As far as I’m concerned all districts should be great not just according to your zip code. And the teachers union is a joke, in NY they have people getting full salaries who are not working when they do something messed up until they get a hearing could be months or even years. This is why people are disgusted with our school system. Private and charter schools are the way to go if you want your kids to learn . The time has come to revamp this awful school system.
Stephen Smith says
Probably the biggest reason other countries do better educating than we do, is that they have a standard of education that applies to all schools. Books and curriculum are the same throughout. Here in good old USA it seems as each state and in some areas each town sets their own standards for education. On top of that money spent on schools varies from town to town and often from school to school. Schools are not failing. We are
And will continue to do so as long as disparity is allowed to continue.
Public funds going to private schools is not the amswer.
Private School vs. Public School: Facts, Benefits & Statistics https://www.fatherly.com/love-money/private-school-vs-public-school-facts-benefits-statistics/
Public School vs. Private School: Test Scores
A recent recap of high school graduates showed private school students scoring 3.1 points higher on the ACT test. The same disparity is found between primary and middle schools, according to the NCES. A comparison of mathematics tests showed private schools scored 18 points higher for eighth-graders and 8 points higher for fourth graders. Reading had the same results, with the private schools outscoring their public counterparts by 18 points in eighth grade and 15 points in fourth grade.
I went to both private and public schools and by far the education is better in private schools.
Deborah Coffey says
Private schools scoring higher isn’t because they do a better job; it’s because they are SELECTIVE in who can attend. Further, you’re comparing 10% of ACT takers to 90% of public school students. Bogus conclusion. Sorry. I attended private schools my entire life and taught in both. Public schools are much, much better…and they represent the diversity of America.
2 tier system says
Well than also all those wealthy Ivy League colleges should start accepting more blue collar working class people instead of the children of the elite and privileged and should also embrace diversity.
Brighter Future says
Deborah Coffey: Good for you that you were so fortunate enough to attend private schools your entire life, congrats! What you fail to address is the downfalls of our public school system especially in poor poverty stricken areas of our country. I went to one of those public schools and did thrive thank God. It was not easy as I heard over our intercom system weekly about classmates who died due to drug overdoses or some other horrible mishap in their community. Yes I did have some great teachers back then that I still remember today but for the most part most students failed, dropped out, and went unnoticed. I’m sure you are a wonderful teacher I can feel your passion but we cannot ignore the downside and the failures of our public school systems especially in the poorer communities. My teacher friends always speak about how many students they get of whom another teacher promoted to a higher grade who could not even read at that grades level. So who loses out, the student of course. These students get lost in the system.
Families jump to private schools as coronavirus drags on https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/08/coronavirus-why-families-are-jumping-to-private-schools.html
CDC Says Schools Can Safely Reopen, But Will They? https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20210212/cdc-says-schools-can-safely-reopen-but-will-they
Tell me again how public schools are much, much better?
ABSURDITY v/s DIVERSITY says
So here’s a perfect example of our country’s public school system and the teacher unions who represent them. Let’s take a look at California where the public school system has been closed for one year which means students have lost a whole year of their education because they are learning nothing via computer, teachers refuse to go back to work while making their full salaries and taking Spring break vacays as if they need to, all while making all sorts of DEMANDS before going back.
@Follow the money…
And the nuts!
“…The bill would create a new state trust fund to serve as a depository for donations from corporations and individuals who would receive tax breaks. Diaz’s plan provides a one-time appropriation of nearly $265,000 to the Department of Revenue to “implement the remittance of payment” from the trust fund to scholarship-funding organizations…”
Another handsome tax-deduction-loophole-write off for the usual suspects.
Crackpots (and crackpot private schools) who home school and teach a version of natural history based on The Flintstones cartoon will expand their access to public (everyone’s taxes) funding. Yabba Dabba Doo!!!
But wait – that’s not all! Support this extremely unconstitutional, ill considered, and corrupt Republican law and you’ll also foot the bill for removing the children of the crackpots from oversight of vaccination compliance, time and attendance compliance, reporting of signs of abuse and/or neglect, etc., etc. And all for one enormously high price!