March 12, 2021

Kathleen Oropeza: The New Florida Voucher Bills Are a ‘Death Knell’ for Public Education

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At The Progressive, Kathleen Oropeza looks at Florida’s SB 48, a bill that takes huge steps towards ending public education as we know it. Florida has long been at the forefront of public school privatization, but with this bill, Governor Ron DeSantis and the right-tilted legislature really take things up a notch. Florida already leads the nation in schools vouchers; SBG 48 turns the five existing programs into super-vouchers.

To accelerate the growth of vouchers, Florida seeks to convert all five programs into Education Savings Account/Debit Cards, funded directly by state general revenues. This money will not be spent on public schools. Instead, “parents can use the funds to pay for a variety of educational services, including private school tuition, tutoring, online education, home education, curriculum, therapy, postsecondary educational institutions in Florida and other defined educational services.

The bill, modeled after legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, represents the unfinished business of former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the late libertarian economist Milton Friedman, and a host of rightwing philanthropists from the Waltons to the Kochs. 

Oropeza lays out the details of this bad news proposal:

This program will be disastrous for most families. Not all students require funding equal to the standard FES-ESA Debit Card amount of approximately $7,592, or 97.5 percent of the full-time equivalentspending per student. 

Some students require less and some students with greater needs require more. Some students with no extra needs, for example, might need only $4,000 in funding to satisfy their educational requirements. When that parent takes a voucher for $7,592, or $3,592 more than their child generates, it means that another public school student with higher needs, who might generate $12,000, will suffer a significant loss in funding.

Likewise, parents who take the $7,592 FES-ESA Debit Card probably have no clue that their child requires funding more in the range of $11,000 from their public school, where students have access to a myriad of additional services and supports, such as nurses, counselors, therapists, and social workers. How will these parents be able to replicate their public school’s services on the “E-Commerce” marketplace with such reduced funds? 

What’s even worse, parents who accept the FES-ESA Debit Card give up their child’s right to attend a public school.

This is the problem of vouchers; not only do they gut public school funding, but they cut parents adrift. “We gave you a voucher,” says the state. “Now you’re on your own. Good luck.”

Read the whole article, remembering that Florida blazes the trail for m any of the worst ideas of the privatization crowd.


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