Past State Board of Education Chair Says It is all about Money!

race-653241_1280Tax credit vouchers are supposed to give poor children an option out of a failing school.  Gary Chartrand, former Chair, Florida State Board of Education, tells it like it really is.

Chartrand makes a case that getting children from poor families out of public schools saves the rest of us money.  There may be another not so hidden agenda that Chartrand forgets to mention.

In a Tampa Bay Times column, Chartrand lists the following arguments in support of using tax credits for corporations who divert their taxes to private school scholarships.  He objects to the Florida Education Association lawsuit on the subject.  He argues that:

  • 78,000 mostly minority students would hit the schools if the tax credit vouchers went away.
  • Florida is projected to add 100,000 students over the next five years.  Building schools would cost at least $1.3 billion even if under enrolled public schools were filled.
  • Tax credit vouchers cover 80% of the per student funding public schools receive.  So, if those children entered public schools, it would cost $111 million more to make up the difference.
  • Tax credit scholarship are aimed at students of limited means. Their average household income is $24,000.  (Of course, the income cap for eligibility was much lower until last year.)
  • Corporate tax credits saves Floridians $1.44 for every dollar in credits corporations contribute to private schools.  (A smoke and mirrors view?)

There is another way to look at these numbers.

  • 78,000 mostly minority students are in schools with no standards or accountability.  Florida has abandoned them.
  • Only 12% of these children come from schools graded ‘D’ or ‘F’ according to the David Figlio report commissioned by the Florida Department of Education.
  • An April 2015 Orlando Sentinel article reports that half of the schools have under 100 students and hundreds of the 1100 schools have under 50 students.
  • The DOE reports that 73% of the private schools that take FTC scholarships tend to be very small religious schools.  In 2013, 127 taught creationism.
  • Public schools are under enrolled in low income areas due to vouchers and charters.  The vacancies make public schools less able to meet student needs, and the private schools cannot afford to even try.  Dividing up the money this way only ensures no sector has enough to do the job.
  • The law suit was filed when the legislature raised the income eligibility to $62,000.  This, for most Florida families, is not low.
  • Saving money on the education of students who needs are greater than most has visible consequences.    The Florida DOE Figlio reports show that achievement is not improved for students with tax credit vouchers.
  • Private and charter school real estate companies or churches are the big beneficiaries of school choice. The public pays for privately owned facilities.  Money comes out of already low salaries and benefits for teachers in those scchools.  The private sector makes millions; the children lose.

See the study by the The Colorado National Educational Policy Center.  It reports that:

“From a public policy perspective, voucher and tax credit program scholarships as currently implemented, are unlikely to provide sufficient support for most students to attend private schools–all but those with the least expensive tuitions e.g. Catholic and CAS (Christian Associated Schools).  These schools also have the least well paid and academically the weakest pool of teachers–in most cases, far weaker than the public school system–and the highest pupil to teacher ratios among the private sector. 

An increase in the dollar amount of vouchers to support tuition costs of families with children who already are enrolled in costly private schools is being fought in states like New York and Nevada.  The is the real motivation for providing more money for tax credit vouchers.  See the article:  ALEC Admits Vouchers are for Suburbia. ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council drafts legislation for states to support school choice and other issues.

One wonders if Gary Chartrand is right.  It IS all about money–who gets the money.   Real estate companies that lease schools are happy.  Churches who charge rent for their buildings are pleased.  School choice is not about education.





Posted in Facilities, Florida, Funding, Religion, Research studies, Tax credit scholarships, Teachers, Vouchers.

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