When something is wrong, do you ignore it or fix it? The Florida Education Association, the PTA and the Florida League of Women Voters said vouchers by any name are wrong and filed suit. A Leon County circuit judge disallowed the suit for lack of standing. Basically, this means that the attorneys did not convince the judge that tax credit scholarships harmed public schools. Is this a no harm, no foul issue? The FEA attorneys say ‘NO’.
The judge did not rule on the merits of the case. Floridians have already voted overwhelmingly to disallow funding for private schools. Vouchers are not roses, and the smell of tax credit scholarships is not sweet. The FEA has appealed the case. What are the merits?
When is a voucher a scholarship? And the answer is……when corporations receive tax credits for giving money for scholarships to private schools. Instead of paying their taxes, they give them away. The difference is that when corporations actually pay their taxes, and the legislature then allocates money from tax revenues for private school scholarships, they are vouchers. The net effect is the same.
Maybe we should all decide how to spend our individual taxes. Just think about it, any semblance of equal access to a high quality public school could disappear.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that vouchers were unconstitutional. Now they may have to decide whether tax credit scholarships are just another name for vouchers. The constitution says
- taxes cannot go to religious schools–three quarters of private schools in Florida are religious.
- Florida must provide a high quality, uniform, efficient school system.
Our current school choice policy divides schools into separate systems that operate under different rules. This is a fundamental issue. While 70,000 students spread across the State in private schools may not substantially harm the public school system now, what does scaling up the number do?
The legislature just increased the income eligibility to $62,000 for families of four. More families qualify, but for what?
A scholarship is worth about $2,000 less than the amount spent for a public school student. Is it right:
- for the legislature to try to save money on the backs of children from lower income families?
- to require qualified teachers for public schools but not private?
- to hold public schools, teachers, and students accountable and not private schools funded indirectly by the State?
Let’s trust that the Appeals Court gets it right. This is about children, not saving money. Florida does not spend much; it ranks 45th in per pupil revenue for schools. More and more money for schools comes from local property taxes. The State is opting out of its responsibility. It prefers to give corporate tax cuts to ‘lure’ business to Florida. A high quality education system might be a much better investment.