SB 1314 and HB 15 increase the amount of money for tax credit scholarships to private schools from 80% of the per student funding to 88% for elementary, 92% for middle, and 96% for high schools. While the legislation tightens up the problem of private schools collecting funds for students not enrolled, it now allows funds to be transferred by debit cards. These scholarships are funded by personal or corporate tax credits in order to avoid the constitutional restriction on direct payments from the legislature to private schools.
This program is no gift to students. The program provides over $418 million dollars to 1602 private schools. There are over 78,000 FTC children enrolled in primarily religious schools. About one-half return to public schools. They have no requirements for teacher certifications or state assessments. They do not perform better academically than do public school students. Many do less well.
The program is advertised to give options to low income students, but low income is defined as less than $63,000 income for a family of four. Based on Florida Department of Education evaluation reports:
Students do not come primarily low achieving schools. They are not primarily students who struggle academically. They do not achieve at a higher rate than public school students. In fact, many do less well.
- FTC students sit a nationally normed achievement test. In the most recent DOE evaluation, ten percent of the students gained about twenty percentage points and thirteen percent lost twenty percentile points.
- Only 25% of FTC students came from public schools with a ‘D’ or ‘F’ school grade.
- Only 23% of FTC students were in the bottom fifth of their prior public school reading distribution.
Why is the State of Florida investing in this program? It surely is not to help children. Let your legislative delegation know these facts.