May 19, 2024

Sun Sentinel Editorial Board: Still too little light on shadowy voucher schools

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The editorial board of the Sun Sentinel offers a blistering take on black box that is Florida’s voucher program.

There’s a strip mall in Greenacres in Palm Beach County that tells you all you need to know about where Tallahassee’s grand experiment with offloading education to the private sector might be headed.

Currently a UPS store, sandwiched between a hair salon and real estate firm, the storefront might — or might not — have been home to a private school that flopped.

The similarly named school that replaced it overnight might — or might not — be owned by a church housed in a Delray Beach office building.

In a summary provided to the Florida Department of Education, it reported five students, no accreditation, and that “early” enrollees are already working at college level by eighth grade.

Are they? Maybe. Maybe not.

Florida’s sweeping 2023 voucher expansion gives any parent in Florida roughly $8,000 in private school tuition to escape the surly bonds of a public system state lawmakers won’t adequately fund.

And that’s where it ends. No state oversight of private schools. No way to know how the public money is spent.

It’s just the way Tallahassee likes its voucher-funded private schools: shrouded in secrecy. Answering to no one.

Others like it, too. Step Up for Students, a third-party administrator for the state voucher program, last week reported it has been fielding 4,000 calls and chats a day now that applications are open for the coming school year.

Already, 380,000 Florida students are using vouchers, according to Step Up. Think of it as a largely invisible but sprawling school district, dwarfing even the 337,000 students enrolled in Miami-Dade, the third-largest public school district in the United States.

How much all this will cost taxpayers has been argued from the start. Is it the $4 billion estimated by the Florida Policy Institute? The $2.8 billion Step Up for Students estimated last September?

The more important number is 1: Why should taxpayers have to shell out even one red cent for black box schooling options just because they come wrapped up in voucher tinsel and shiny political hucksterism?

Read the full editorial here. 

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