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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Will voters like vouchers this time?



Over and over again, voters across the country have said no when asked about vouchers, most recently in super-red-state Utah. As one leading voucher proponent recently wrote, “All the unions have to do is raise the specter that public schools may be harmed, and the electorate is likely to vote no.”

But in Florida, both sides in the battle over Amendments 7 and 9 say this time may be different.

“These initiatives do not mandate any new programs. Some of the other ballot initiatives (in other states) did,” Greg Turbeville, who supported both amendments as a member of the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, told The Gradebook today. “The programs we’re hopefully protecting are already in effect. … People have more familiarity with them. And they just have the awareness of how good these programs are for students.”

Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the state teachers union, said voucher opponents won’t be resting easy, despite the history of voters and vouchers in other states. “We understand that when given a choice about vouchers, voters have rejected them,” he said. “But because of the wording, we’re concerned that a lot of people won’t understand.”

Both amendments seek to rewrite language in the Florida Constitution that courts used to strike down Opportunity Scholarships, the first and most controversial of three voucher programs created under then-Gov. Jeb Bush. But neither mentions the word “voucher.” Amendment 9 would also require school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their funding in the classroom.

If a legal challenge fails to knock both amendments off the November ballot, “educating” voters will become crucial. Anyone want to predict how down and dirty this campaign will get?

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:53am]


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