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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Second voucher proposal fails by one vote



The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission just fell one vote short of passing a measure to further entrench school vouchers in Florida.

The plan would have addressed part of the state Constitution calling for a uniform system of free public schools and was part of a two-pronged effort to redeem former Gov. Jeb Bush's Opportunity Scholarships.

The vote was 16-9, and 17 are needed to put something on the November ballot. "This is a good day for Florida," said teacher union president Andy Ford. "The commission has taken a serious look at what they were about to do and they realized it was wrong."

The proposal was aimed at reversing a state Supreme Court decision rejecting Jeb Bush's Opportunity Scholarships. Last week, the TBRC approved a related plan that would overturn an appellate court decision barring state funding for private schools and other religious organizations.

"I think competition is healthy," commissioner Bruce Kyle said at the end of long, emotional debate. "It's also going to bring up our public schools as they compete to keep kids. The good ones will rise to the top."

But the argument could not counter fears about an erosion of public schools, a precarious state economy and a lack of understanding how far the proposal would go.

The outcome turned on the decision of several commissioners who supported last week's measure but said the new one went too far. They included Jacinta Mathis and Darryl Rouson.

"No matter which way you vote, you will passionately anger some people and you will passionately please some people," Rouson said. "At the end of the day, you have to go with what your gut and your god tells you. I think our charge is not to overhaul policies, to overhaul systems of government. Our charge is to deal with tax and budget."

Also voting no were: Martha Barnett, Sandy" D’Alemberte, John McKay, Bob McKee, Les Miller, Randy Miller, and Jade Moore.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:49am]


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