Monday, May 12, 2008

Corporate Vouchers Victorious in Florida

When state legislators in Florida offer children and parents either a rundown, under-funded, segregated testing factory or a tax-supported corporate voucher to a Christian school, the school choice has already been made--and it hasn't been made by the parent or the child.

Nevertheless, a growing number of legislators in Florida have seen the light at the bottom of their vortex. They have convinced themselves that they are not voting for vouchers--they are voting for scholarships. They are not giving up their civic commitment to provide for citizens in order that corporations may be relieved of their tax burden--they are saving children, even if it is from their own legislative and moral failure to provide for those children.

The amount of democracy within a society is directly proportionate to the amount of civic space remaining there. Oh, well.

Clips from St. Petersburg Times:
In 2001, Democrats in the Legislature pounded Republican plans to start a private school voucher program for poor and predominantly minority kids. They said it was unconstitutional, a drain on public schools, even un-American. In the end, all but one Democrat voted against it.

Times have changed. This year, a bill to vastly expand the same program passed by large margins.

And this time, a third of the Democratic caucus was on board.

"I'm a strong advocate for public school education, and I'm not necessarily a strong advocate for vouchers," said Rep. Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg, one of four Tampa Bay-area Democrats to vote yes. But "the bottom line has to be the child. If good things are happening for the child, then you can justify it."

. . . .

The legislation increases the amount of each scholarship to $3,950, up $200 from this year. The average cost per student in public school is about $7,000.

Some Democratic supporters say they back the program because unlike Opportunity Scholarships, the state's first voucher program — which the Florida Supreme Court struck down in 2006 — the money for tax-credit scholarships doesn't come directly out of state coffers. Some offered what critics call a semantic defense.

"I don't think I'm voting for a voucher," said Rep. Betty Reed, a Tampa Democrat who has 13 private schools in her district that accept tax-credit scholarships. "It's a scholarship." . . . .


Sherman Dorn said...

I think the politics of this is more complicated than either your comments or Ron Matus's article. There's one snippet in Matus's article that's crucial: that voucher schools already exist in the districts of many Democrats who voted for the expansion of the voucher program. I would not be surprised at all if the proprietors and teachers in the schools are also in the district, and maybe even retired public-school teachers.

In other words, though I'm sure Bill Heller and other Democrats I know do think this is helping children, there are also typical constituency politics at work. That doesn't make it evil, but it's something most people don't think about.

Then there are Gelber's comments at the end of the article: "To a certain extent, I don't know if you're seeing people like the program, or you're seeing Democrats throw their hands up with what Republicans have put in our public schools, which to some extent has made these private schools more attractive

Jim Horn said...

Constituency politics, indeed. The constituencies that matter to these legislators are the corporations sopping the tax gravy for their good works and the private or church or corporate church schools cashing in on the save the children campaign. And don't forget to include all the other citizen patriots who are willing to trade down their already-inadequate $7,000 per poor child commitment for a $3,950 poor child voucher. Good economics. The children (or their parents) for whom this choice is the only alternative are not part of the constituency whose interests are of any importance in these decisions to exchange civic commitment for private advantage.

Frequent Reader said...

I love this blog, thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Horn-

Florida's Hispanic students outscored the statewide averages for all students in 15 states in 2007 on 4th grade reading. Florida's free and reduced lunch Hispanics outscored several of the statewide averages of these same states- including California.

Go to the NAEP website and check it out for yourself.

-Matthew Ladner

Jim Horn said...

Mr. Ladner:

Is there a point that you have you made that I have missed? If so, please be explicit.

Thanks, JH

Anonymous said...

Mr. Horn,
I will be glad to supply you with information Mr. Ladner oft forgets while touting an incomplete presentation of Florida's grade 4 NAEP scores. It would be his lack of transparency that a third grade retention policy exists in Florda which allows one to be in third grade 3 times. Thus grade 4 is filtered of poor performers,as studied by Walter Haney of Boston University. Somehow, Mr. Ladner continues to find it amazing that mean scores rise when low scores are removed from the sample. I have never found this more than math in action somehow called miraculous.

Anonymous said...

Shortly after this article, David Figlio released a study showing Florida's voucher system ineffective. Interested persons may google and learn.

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