by Shirley Arcuri, LWV Hillsborough County, Florida
SCHOOL VOUCHERS DIVERT TAX DOLLARS
Your January 3 editorial (Encouraging Voucher Victory) in support of school vouchers fails to correctly explain the basics of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.
Vouchers divert money from the public school system by allowing corporations to fund the voucher program instead of paying taxes to the State of Florida. A corporation may receive tax credit for up to 100% of its state income tax liability. These tax dollars would otherwise be available to fund the public school system. With 67,142 students receiving vouchers, that is $86,069,038 lost to public schools. (Florida DOE: Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, Sept 2014 Quarterly Report).
Private schools receiving vouchers spend our tax money without accountability. Teachers do not have to be certified. Schools do not have to abide by curriculum standards or take State assessment tests. Some 70% of these schools are religious schools. (Florida DOE: Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, Sept 2014 Quarterly Report). Of these, 164 teach creationism. (Slate, Jan. 26, 2014, Map: Publicly Funded Schools That Are Allowed to Teach Creationism)
Current voucher programs as structured violate the separation of church and state. The Florida Constitution states: “No revenue of the State or political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasure directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.” The legislature, by giving tax credit to corporations for payments to voucher programs is taking tax money from the State of Florida and directing it to private schools, most of which are religious schools.
Florida is now ranked 45th in per student funding for education. Instead of vouchers, our tax dollars should go to making the Florida public school system work for all our children.
Shirley C. Arcuri, President
League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County