Former governor, Miami superintendent debate vouchers
Former governor Jeb Bush, who introduced vouchers to Florida's education system, has begun the drumbeat to allow the state to spend tax dollars school vouchers, even if the money goes to religious institutions. It's no idle question, as the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission will place the issue of "direct support" before voters in November.
"A quality education can change a life. It can lift a child out of poverty and provide young people with the skills to achieve their dreams," Bush wrote to open a a guest column in today's Miami Herald. "Knowing this, how can anyone deny a poor child the right to a quality education?"
In a counterpoint column, former Miami-Dade superintendent Merrett Stierheim calls the state's school choice programs a "sham" and and the state's education funding system an "abomination, amid multiple abominations."
The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission proposal "is also designed, intentionally in some cases, to further weaken Florida's local public education systems," Stierheim writes. "In short, the Legislature will, by expanding corporate scholarships, further demoralize and financially weaken our public schools.
Bush posits that vouchers did not harm the public schools, yet they gave students an opportunity to succeed - something the state's test results have borne out. "Unfortunately," Bush writes, the courts ruled Florida's Opportunity Scholarships unconstitutional. "Fortunately," voters can undo at least a part of those decisions.
"Too many children are not getting the quality education they deserve because they have few choices," he ends his column. "As adults, many of them will lack the skills to succeed in the competitive global marketplace, leaving them dependent on government rather than their own abilities. That is the legacy of opponents of school choice."
Parents got $3,000 toward their private school education, while the state held $2,600 and the district got nothing for those students. Many of the students then returned to their public schools, which absorbed them without having the money to educate them.
Stierheim pans the proposal coming out of the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission as "designed to save the state money, a short-term effort that does not consider the long-term negative impacts on our economy and our children, at the expense of public education."