Carol Lerner posted this comment in response to a post about the new $100 million tax credit voucher program in Illinois:


“The article says it is the largest “first-time” tax credit scholarship program. Florida, at nearly $1-billion, has the largest tax credit scholarship program in the nation. And what is particularly horrifying is that it can increase (as stated in legislation) by 25% per year (which it has been doing each year thus far). At that unbelievable rate, in 15 years the spending on these voucher scholarships would exceed the current education budget of $21-billion and in 20 years, it would be almost as large as the entire current $87.2–billion Florida state budget. That is unlikely to happen but it just shows how absurd a 25% growth rate is.

“Florida gets its money for this $1-billion and rising program by diverting corporate income and other taxes to two non profit scholarship-funding organizations (SFOs): Step Up for Children and AAA Scholarship Foundation. Step Up for Children gets the lion-share of the money for which they get a 3% cut. They also actively solicit money from corporations. Step Up for Children was set up by John Kirtley, a close associate of Betsy DeVos.

“Now with the passage on Monday of Florida House Bill 7055, the amount of money diverted to vouchers that should be going into the general treasury is further expanding as is the source of the money. The legislation stipulates that money to fund sending students who are victims of bullying to private schools will come from a consumer sales tax allowing residents to allocate $110 in sales tax when they purchase a car or transfer registration from another state. So now, it is not just corporate taxes but also consumer taxes that are tapped. A recent article indicated that state revenue projects for this year are down and cuts will have to be made. It is no wonder revenue is down despite a supposid booming economy.

“There is a growing backlash to these privatizing maneuvers in Florida and pretty much all but a few Democrats in the State legislature are on the correct side. (Of course, the Republicans far exceed the Democrats, especially in the FL House of Representatives but this might change a bit in November.) Where I live in Sarasota, a group of us set up last summer an organization, Protect Our Public Schools (POPS), to fight school privatization. The impetus for this was the passage of HB 7069 legislation (a big giveaway to charter schools, particularly corporate-managed charters among many other really awful things). From the start we tied fighting privatization to working for a high quality education for all students. Since the Parkland shooting, we decided to expand our mission to include addressing school violence in all its forms. We are attending school board meetings, holding public forums, staffing tables at marches (e.g., The Women’s March, the upcoming March for Our Lives) and getting a great response. I have developed a presentation on school privatization in Florida and have been invited to present to a bunch of Indivisible groups and just the other day was invited to address the local UU Church. So the movement is growing but our enemies are strong and very well funded and are increasingly using dark monies to target and replace pro-public education school board members.

“If anyone knows people from other parts of Florida working on school privatization issues, please let me know. Given the fact that Florida has an increasingly state-run education system, it is important that we all work together.”

I encouraged Carol and other Floridians to contact Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education to learn about other allies in Florida as well as Sue Legg, education director of the Florida League of Women Voters. She has many allies in the state.