Expanded Voucher Bill Awaits Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s Signature, But He’s Not Saying if He’ll Sign it or Not
Teacher unions and the rest of Florida’s Education Establishment are putting the pressure on Gov. Rick Scott to veto a bill that would open up the state’s voucher program to more students.
“The (current) voucher program, also known as the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, provides private-school scholarships for children from low-income families,” Bradenton.com reports. “The scholarships are funded by businesses, which receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits in exchange for their donations.”
Under the proposed expansion of the voucher plan, more scholarships would be made available to families beginning in the 2016-17 school year. The expansion would also allow partial scholarships for children from higher-income families, and would “remove some of the barriers to participating in the program,” Bradenton.com reports.
There would also be more oversight of the voucher program, a key consideration to getting the bill through the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Gov. Scott, a Republican, has not indicated whether he supports the expanded voucher plan or not, but he’s generally seen as a supporter of school choice.
That has the Education Establishment worried.
Establishment members oppose any program that allows more children to escape mediocre government schools in favor of high-quality private schools. They make the tired argument that public schools are woefully underfunded and need every cent they can get.
That’s a convincing argument only if one refuses to acknowledge that government school budgets are filled with waste and inefficiencies caused largely by many school district’s labor contracts with school employee unions.
The main reason the Establishment opposes vouchers is because private schools typically do not have employee unions. Therefore, anything that shrinks public schools is seen as an attack on the nation’s already beleaguered labor movement.
In response to this existential threat, the K-12 Establishment – which includes the Florida Education Association and the Florida School Boards Association – has ratcheted up its attacks on the voucher program.
Unfortunately, the Establishment’s efforts are having some effect. Bradenton.com reports that Scott’s office has received 1,080 phone calls or emails in opposition to the voucher bill, and only 659 in favor of it.
Those numbers would certainly look a lot different if parents of the 50,000 children who are reportedly on the voucher waiting list would express their views to the governor’s office.
But Scott is up for re-election, so he may only be interested in the actual numbers, not the theoretical ones. The governor might interpret the lopsided results as a harbinger of what awaits him at the ballot box in November.
Still, an Orlando Sentinel blog suggests that Scott won’t veto the measure because too many Republican legislative leaders want it.
This is an interesting test for Scott. He started his term pushing a robust K-12 reform agenda. But in the last year or so, he’s become less daring and more eager to be seen as a friend of public education.
Florida voters will know soon enough where their governor stands. The voucher expansion bill must be signed by June 28 or it will expire.