Then and Now: A Letter from Leesburg

leesburgI can hear the sadness in this letter.  It is about change in a town she loves.

by Karen West

One of my neighbors spends most of her time arranging vouchers for Hispanic immigrant children to attend St Paul’s Catholic School in Leesburg.  The Voucher pays part, then the Catholic Dioceses of Orlando pays the balance. I admire her dedication to helping each of these children – I just don’t admire the Florida laws which allow vouchers to drain tax dollars away from the public schools in the area.

The money pulled away from public education has created a disaster for Leesburg – a number of F rated schools have driven the middle class families who used to be the backbone of Leesburg to other communities, and to the Villages Charter School or other private schools.

I have lived in the Leesburg area for 30 years, owned a business there, and taught school in the county for 25 of those 30 years.

The most visible change that I see every week is in our downtown Methodist church – once a mainstay of middle class civility and support for education, the majority of the gifted students I taught in middle school in the 1980’s and 90’s have all moved away in search of better schools for their children.  The one remaining former student has his kids at the Villages Charter School.  The church is no longer mulch-generational – it is just grayer and grayer!

So the public schools where kids of all backgrounds and ethnicities learned together, participated in chorus and debate and art and sports together have become schools of last resort for the people unable to afford private schools, or who don’t live by the rural subdivisions that support a chain-charter school in South Lake County.

Of course, you know all of this – but it is very personal to me.

Posted in Charter Schools, Florida, Funding, Public Education, Tax credit scholarships.

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