For years now, Georgia Republicans have been following a trail blazed by their counterparts down in Florida, slowly nibbling away at the foundations of public education by proposing limited voucher programs for disabled students or students in what were labeled “failing schools.
Now Florida conservatives may finally be ready to try for the full enchilada:
“Traditional public school advocates shuddered Friday morning at news that Florida’s incoming governor was considering a voucher-like program that would be available to all students.
Called “education savings accounts,” the proposal would allow state education dollars to follow students to the schools their parents choose, whether public or private. Although there are few details, such a program could dwarf the state’s existing voucher programs, which are limited to either low-income or disabled students…
“There goes public education,” said Pinellas school board member Janet Clark.
“There had been talk of expansion of the (voucher) program,” said state Rep. Kriseman, R-St. Petersburg. “But that’s not an expansion. That’s a takeover.”
“If what the (incoming) governor wants to happen occurs,” Kriseman continued, “public education as we know it ceases to exist.”
Gov.-elect Rick Scott told about 900 voucher students in St. Petersburg Thursday that he wanted to “give every child in the state every opportunity that you’ve had, to make sure that you go to whatever school you want to.” In a interview later with the St. Petersburg Times, he said he wants a program that allows parents to use state education dollars at the school of their choice.
To essentially offer vouchers to all families “would be disastrous,” said Jean Clements, president of the Hillsborough teachers union.
One reason: The cost of paying for several hundred thousand students who are now in private schools.
“If suddenly all the children who are in private school are now going to have the citizens, the taxpayers, of Florida paying for that private school, or at least a good portion of it, that’s money that’s going to come straight out of the public school budget,” Clements said. “And public schools that are already strapped are going to be seriously hurting.”