Gradebook

Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Vouchers save you money (they say)

Schoolvouchers_3 States saved $444-million over 16 years by giving students vouchers instead of paying for them to attend their assigned school, voucher uber-supporters at the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation contend in a newly minted report released this morning. And would you believe Florida, with its three (at the time - now of course it's two) programs, accounted for 41 percent of that amount? The group reports that the A+ Opportunity Scholarships, now tossed as unconstitutional, saved the state $3-million - that represents the difference between the cost of the voucher and the amount the state would have paid to educate the same student in their regular public school. By the same figuring, Florida's Corporate Tax-Credit Scholarships saved $42-million and the McKay Scholarship program for students with disabilities accounted for a whopping $139-million in savings.

"School choice saves. It saves children, and now we have empirical evidence that it saves money,"  foundation executive director Robert Enlow said in a news release. "In the face of $444 million in savings, another excuse to deny children a quality education has vanished before our eyes."

Yet the future of school choice in Florida remains murky, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice notes in its School Choice and School Constitutions, released in late April. The state Supreme Court overturned the A+ scholarships, ruling the state could not "provide educational options beyond those in public schools." When Senate Majority Leader Daniel Webster tried this past session, he couldn't get any traction.

Economic impact arguments are all the rage these days. It's how early education advocates try to show the benefit of implementing statewide prekindergarten programs and, apparently, now it's the latest way to make the case for the controversial voucher programs. Some states are joining up, Utah being the latest, though its new law faces a voter challenge. But the push-back remains significant, as Utah is finding and Florida has found. It will be fascinating to see what the proponents - generally strange bedfellows of GOP lawmakers and inner-city parents, or the opponents - most often the public education establishment, make of these latest reports.

(Graphic from Freedom Forum, www.freedomforum.org)

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:17am]

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