Florida never ceases to amaze. In 2012, the voters overwhelmingly defeated a constitutional amendment to permit school vouchers, yet the Legislature keeps finding ingenious ways to siphon off public funds for vouchers.
Now, Julie Delegal writes, a local school board member–presumably elected to strengthen and support his district’s public schools–has come out strongly in opposition to the Florida School Boards Association’s lawsuit against private school vouchers.
What you need to know to understand this story is that former Governor Jeb Bush loves vouchers, and everyone on his team does what Jeb wants.
This is how her article begins. It is worth reading it all to see how the privatization movement is trying to starve public education and send money to unaccountable private schools:
Duval County School board member Jason Fischer is a nice young man. But in politics, I’ve learned, it’s the nice young men you have to watch.
His most recent actions reveal that he’s a foot soldier in the war to destroy public education. And his bread may be getting buttered by lieutenants in the Jeb-Bush-brand, school privatization movement — the ones who are affiliated with his employer, Uretek Holdings.
Fischer’s recent activities put him squarely in the camp that has been systematically destroying Florida’s public schools for more than a decade. As both governor and puppet-master, Bush has overseen the implementation of a punitive school-grades system and an overreaching teacher-accountability scheme.
Meanwhile, the Bush camp has promoted privatization — and the funding choices that go with it – while the Legislature has been starving our public schools. Despite Gov. Rick Scott’s claims that he’s boosted spending for education, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that, in real dollars, per pupil spending in Florida public schools is still not up to pre-recessionary levels.
Fischer has come out strongly against the lawsuit filed by the Florida School Boards Association, which questions the constitutionality of Florida’s private-school voucher program. He not only published a guest editorial in the Jacksonvlle Times Union, he also asked his fellow public school board members to pass a resolution condemning the suit.
Voucher funding now drains state coffers by more than $300 million yearly.
Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is on record saying that privatization — voucher schools, charter schools, etc. — could siphon away up to $70 million from Duval next year.
With support from the FEA, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the Florida PTA, and other education advocates, the FSBA is asking a Leon County judge to declare the tax credit voucher program unconstitutional on two grounds. Plaintiffs say that by permitting corporations to pay their taxes to the voucher program called “Step Up for Students,” instead of to the Florida treasury, the program creates a separate, shadow school system. The Florida Constitution, the suit points out, calls for a single, “high quality,” and “uniform” public school system.
The Constitution also forbids aid to religious institutions, and the majority of schools funded by “Step Up” are religious schools.
The response to the lawsuit from voucher supporters is, essentially, “You’re picking on poor children who need to have ‘choice,’ you big meanies.”
Is there hope for public education in Florida? Yes. Parents must organize and fight this attack on their public schools. School boards must be vigilant against privatization. Working together, they stopped the “parent trigger” twice in the Legislature. They have the power, and they can’t let down their guard for a minute. The privatization movement never rests, and neither should the defenders of public education.