June 26, 2021

Billy Townsend: Florida spends $1 Billion per year on a fraudulent voucher marketplace

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Billy Townsend is a blogger who has been absolutely relentless in his pursuit of Florida education privatization shenanigans. Here’s a look at how the Florida voucher marketplace consumes vast amounts of money but provides nothing in return. Reposted with permission.

Put aside what you think about Jeff Bezos and Amazon as person and company. This article isn’t about either; it’s about school vouchers. But I saw Bezos use a thought-provoking phrase in his annual stockholder letter. I find it quite helpful in assessing the catastrophic human and economic failures of Florida’s school voucher programs.

“If you want to be successful in business (in life, actually), you have to create more than you consume. Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with.”

Again, put aside whether you think Bezos or Amazon do that. Put aside how easily that statement can lead you to eugenics if you follow its logic into human existence. Put aside the fuzzy definitions of creation and consumption. Let’s just take it on business/economics/marketplace terms.

Doug Tuthill’s schools and organization consume *infinitely* more than they create — here’s a documentary

No institution of any kind in America consumes more money and creates less value than Florida’s voucher school provider network. None. Florida’s failed voucher schools have the worst consumption-to-creation ratio of any large-scale business or private function I have ever seenStep up for Students, as an organization, consumes so much more than it creates that it’s virtually impossible to quantify the disproportion. Here’s a taste, from an organization that provides zero active quality oversight of its schools or marketplace.

Step Up has the money to spend. It takes a 2.5-3% administrative fee on every contribution. Eleven employees have six-figure salaries. It also spends money marketing the program to donors, parents, and legislators; Step Up has brought huge numbers of parents and students to rally in Tallahassee. Step Up may present itself as a charitable group, but it also functions as a well-financed advocacy group for school choice in Florida.

I’ve created a fairly concise video illustration of the compounding civic disaster and economic fraud that is Florida’s and Jeb Bush’s and Doug Tuthill’s statewide network of horror show voucher schools. I call it “Endtime academies: the ugly reality of Florida’s “private” voucher schools.” It’s 41 minutes; and it lays out briskly Florida’s entire failed voucher experiment from the point of view of one Florida county — mine, which is Polk County.

Bottom line: 100 times out of 100, as a parent, I would choose the worst public school over the best private school funded only by vouchers — which the vast majority are.

Florida’s voucher programs destroy — destroy — market-based dogmas. Let’s pivot to “Capacity-ism,” in education and beyond.

Near the end of my voucher “deck-u-mentary,” I note:

There is very little to buy in the voucher marketplace — especially the low income voucher marketplace. $1 billion per year has not produced “private” capacity to provide education. It has only harmed public capacity to provide education.

Market-based dogma, which “conservatives” and “libertarians” and “education reform liberals” often pretend to believe, maintains that “customers” will create providers of skilled public services from thin air without any regulation or directed capacity-development. It’s the magic of the market. LOL. Florida’s “magic” market in vouchers debunks this theory of governing in every conceivable way. That’s why the grifters running the “marketplace” don’t want anybody scrutinizing the dangerous and defective and openly-fraudulent products that $1 Billion in unregulated tax and tax-adjacent money have produced.

Increasingly, I find my “ideology,” such as it is, moving to what you might call “Capacity-ism.” Does this policy or spending or belief contribute to developing the capacity to do useful, dignified things and produce beneficial social outcomes?

Human equity is incredibly important to me — real equity, not abstract buzzwords. And in its pursuit, through close observation, I have come to believe one overarching aphorism above all others: there is no equity without capacity.

As you follow my presentation, I think you will see how perfectly Florida’s Jeb Crow vouchers illustrate that fact.

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