THE QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Has your state changed laws on tax credit vouchers?
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Private schools with tax-credit scholarships are usually:
—In low income areas
—Not required to have certified teachers
—Not required to take state assessments
Tax credit scholarships allow corporations to donate a portion of their tax liabilities to private foundations to support vouchers to private, mostly religious schools. Which states have school vouchers? How do they work? See: School Vouchers. The web site includes a history of the programs, pro and con arguments, what states are doing, and a comparison of state laws.
Read about the bill and see how the coalition to pass it was put together. The Florida legislature passed a large expansion bill. No longer are the FTC scholarships for low-income families. A family of 4 earning $62, 000 is eligible.
What are the constitutional concerns?
Did you know that the Florida League of Voters joined the FEA in filing a lawsuit against this bill to expand tax credit scholarships?
Here is the Florida School Choice website.
Is your League opposing tax credit vouchers? Share your fact sheets and strategies.
NOTES FOR 2015 SESSION
Tax Credit Voucher Response Points
See also analysis by NCSL http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/school-choice-scholarship-tax-credits.aspx
- Not just for poor families: Expanded eligibility for partial scholarships in 2014 for incomes from $43, 500 to $62, 010 for a family of four or to 260% of federal poverty level.
- Editorial states money is not diverted from public schools BUT: there are 67,142 FTC students. $86,069,038 is lost to public schools. Brevard, Broward, Dade, Duval, Hillsborough and Orange, and Volusia Counties account for over 60% of the FTC scholarships. Other counties have 1% or fewer. Public schools in low income areas already are strapped for funds. Losing students impacts how much money public schools have to provide services and maintain facilities. It is not just about reducing the number of teachers; it is about making it harder for public schools to provide for the students who remain. http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/NEA-Rankings-and-Estimates-2013-2014.pdf
–Is Florida saving money on the backs of low income children? Florida is ranked near the bottom in per student funding for education, rank = 45th, nearly half of what is spent comes from local property taxes. Rank = 16th.
–Is dividing education dollars among public and private schools ensuring all will become mediocre
- State saves money by providing for FTC scholarships but loses taxes from state corporate taxes, insurance premium taxes, credits for oil and gas production, self-accrued sales tax liabilities of direct pay premium holders, beverages taxes on beer, wine and spirits to the for a cap of $286 million in credits for 2013-14. http://www.floridaschoolchoice.org/Information/CTC/quarterly_reports/ftc_report_sept2014.pdf
Unequal Standards for public and private schools.
–Not a uniform system as required in Florida constitution. Editorial does not mention lower standards for private schools
–Schools do not have to abide by curriculum standards or take State assessments
–Teachers not required to be certified
Are Civil Rights Violated? Resegregation of schools? 25% of FTC scholarship recipients are white.
SB850 Personal Learning Accounts Expansion of Funding for Students with Disabilities.
Range of scholarships: $4395 to $19,105 per student Governor Scott plans to expand the range of disabilities covered: http://www.redefinedonline.org/2014/06/gov-rick-scott-special-needs-scholarship-program-is-just-the-start/PLA Accountability concerns http://theequityline.org/wp/2014/07/14/dont-duped-personal-learning-scholarships-fl-az/ . In 2014-15, FTC scholarships are worth $5272.
Personal Learning Accounts give parents with children who have serious disabilities e.g. autism, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome among others about $10,000 each up to $1.4 million in State funds. These are payments to service providers, private schools, or providers of educational materials that the parent requests.
PLA is to be administered by a private company which will be audited by State Auditor General to include number of students and eligibility of reimbursements made to companies (approved list of providers is required). http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=1000-1099/1002/Sections/1002.385.html
Private School Accountability
Step Up for Students or any other FTC disbursement group will have to submit an annual audit (2014 bill) and cannot use tax money for political purposes. Minimum requirements to verify student eligibility done by school districts.
Leaders speak out against lawsuit to limit school choice and Opportunity for Florida Low income families http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/HouseNews/preview.aspx?PressReleaseId=643
Weatherford: Fears of organization over need of children??
Gardiner: Parents should be able to choose
Chrisafulli: important for preparing poorest and most disadvantaged students for success
Gaetz: Children in poverty, minority children, and children with unique needs. Enacted strong accountability measures to ensure parents will know how students will compare to like students in public schools
The End to Step Up for Students Lobbying and Political Activity with Tax Payer Money? Not Exactly
McKay Scholarships Accountability (26, 511 students; 47% white; $168,890 allocated, 916 schools; 64% religious. )
New requirements for McKay include school site visits: Current 2014 audit stated 3 school visits required and 14 visits made by DOE. Problems occurred in each site reported. Stronger controls needed. Auditor General audit report http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/7514/urlt/web_mckay.pdf
Problems in McKay Accountability in the past: 2011 Auditor General report . These problems were noted in Senate documents as early as 2003. http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2011-12-08/news/new-times-mckay-scholarship-expose-prompts-reform-of-a-billion-dollar-educational-catastrophe/
Separation of Church and State: 73% of FTC schools are religious and 167 of those teach creationism.
–2012 Amendment 8 banning the use of State funds for funding religious schools .
–No Aid Clause of Florida Constitution: “No revenue of the State or political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.
–2006 Florida Supreme Court Ruling against Opportunity Scholarships directly funded by the Legislature.
Evaluation of FTC Scholarship Program
- Thomas Fordham Institute (supports school choice) http://edexcellence.net/articles/evaluation-of-the-florida-tax-credit-scholarship-program-participation-compliance-and-test Regrets Figlio will not continue evaluations.
- David Figlio: Evaluation of Florida Tax Credit Program Participation, Compliance and Test Scores in 2013. April 2014 http://www.floridaschoolchoice.org/pdf/FTC_Research_2012-13_report.pdf
–School level scores available only for 110 private schools out of over 1,144 schools—non trivial school level variability in gain scores
–Strongest gains for Catholic schools especially private order schools (20% of gain scores)–students who struggle the most tend to leave and return to public schools
–Consistent with all but one year, FTC scholarship participants came from lower performing public schools: 35.1 were A schools; 12 % came from D or F schools
–4 schools closed and the Fla DOE suspended 129 schools from the program. Valid scores received for 92% of students. Missing student scores primarily for students no longer enrolled or ill. These students tend to be less advantaged than students for whom scores were reported.
–Not advisable to compare FTC students with public school gains; they do not take the same tests.
–Strong relationship in gain scores for schools with more than 180 days (10.8% of schools); weakest gains for schools with fewer than 180 days (17%)
–New 2015 Evaluation Method likely to Increase Cheating. “My read of the new law is that average scores will be reported, rather than gain scores. This will, sadly, mean that it will be harder to have a reasonable read of how children are progressing. In addition, my research (and that of others) suggests that accountability based on average scores is much more likely to lead to cheating and other forms of manipulative behavior on the part of educators than accountability based on gain scores.” (You can use the sadly language if you want) David Figlio
—850 FTC Evaluation http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=1000-1099/1002/Sections/1002.395.html
Compare to the extent possible the scholarship students’ performance to the public school students with similar socio economic backgrounds with data supplied by the DOE using an agreed upon methodology
Include school data for schools with 51% of FTC students if there are 30 students enrolled
Conduct site visits to 7 schools per year to verify enrollment and attendance data and teaching credentials and teacher background and finger printing data.