Do voucher advocates really want vouchers for everybody?
Some do. Some don't. And where the fault lines surface in Florida, especially among Republican lawmakers, may be key as Gov.-elect Rick Scott's proposal for universal vouchers ("education savings accounts") gets consideration in coming months.
Voucher supporters are often portrayed as a monolithic block, but they don't march in lockstep. National voucher supporter Andrew Coulson weighed in a few days ago to criticize Scott's plan, and The Gradebook is hearing similar rumblings closer to home.
"I don't necessarily think I should have $6,000, or whatever the per pupil charge is, to take with me to send my (child) to Tampa Prep or Berkeley Prep or Jesuit, when I have the means," said Lincoln Tamayo (pictured above), the head of Tampa's Academy Prep, a high-performing private school that accepts tax-credit vouchers for low-income kids. "Why would I take that away from the public coffers? I don't need the assistance."
Tamayo - who for what it's worth is a Republican - is from the wing of the "choice community" that believes vouchers should be a limited tool, one aimed at giving more options to low-income students. Asked directly about Scott's plan, Tamayo at first said this: "I will only say that I'm high on the governor's plan to increase the opportunities for tax-credit scholarships for our most marginalized citizens."
When pressed, he conceded concern. Giving vouchers to all could affect the funding available for low-income students, he said. And it could take the focus away from helping them.
"It's not a box I would be really happy to open," Tamayo said.
"I'm a supporter of the governor. But we really need to be circumspect before we dive into this headlong," he continued. "I do invite the governor to see Academy Prep. He will see great work being done in the inner city to provide our most marginalized children a great education and a great opportunity to be powerful and contributing American citizens."
"We need to keep our focus on that."