October 6, 2022

Kate Payne: New report estimates vouchers will divert $1.3 billion in public money to private schools this year

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Covering education for WLRN in Miami, Kate Payne looks at a new report that shows how funding for public education is further eroding in Florida.

The amount of public money being spent on private schools in Florida has increased substantially since 2019, according to a new report by the Florida Policy Institute and the Education Law Center.

The analysis estimates that some $1.3 billion in taxpayer funds will be diverted school vouchers this year, amounting to 10% of the overall funding the state earmarked for public school districts for the 2022-2023 school year.

“This enormous increase in the flow of public dollars to fund private education has happened so quickly that many Floridians are likely unaware of the financial impact being placed upon public school districts and the way these voucher programs are affecting the availability of their tax dollars for public education,” the report reads in part.

Private schools don’t have to comply with federal civil rights laws or state laws on standardized testingteacher certification or certain building codes in the way that public schools do.

The article presents some specific costs, and some reactions from education advocates.

The report estimates that in the Miami-Dade school district, $225 million will be diverted to private schools in the 2022-2023 school year, amounting to “8% of the district’s total FEFP budget”.

Bacardi Jackson is the Interim Deputy Legal Director for Children’s Rights at the Southern Poverty Law Center. She argues that diverting public funds into private schools is part of a long legacy of undermining students’ equal access to education – especially Black students.

“Imagine what the return of $1.5 billion each year to our public schools could do. I for one can imagine a better future for my three children and all of our children,” Jackson said. “I can imagine a recommitment to the one institution that sits at the cornerstone of our democracy: a free, high quality, public education that is guaranteed by the constitution of the state of Florida.”

Read the full article (with the report included) here. 

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