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Weatherford: Expand voucher program

If Florida’s controversial school voucher program needed a powerful ally in Tallahassee this year, it found one: House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, is building support for a proposed expansion of the tax credit scholarship program, which provides private-school scholarships to about 60,000 low-income children in Florida.

The proposal would enable corporate donors to earn dollar-for-dollar sales tax credits in exchange for contributions to the scholarship program. (Donors can currently earn credits toward their corporate income taxes, as well as their insurance premium and alcoholic beverage excise taxes.) It would also create new partial scholarships for participating students whose families suddenly earn too much money to qualify.

But Weatherford may have to agree to some radical changes to the program — including a proposed requirement that scholarship students take standardized tests.

“For a bill to pass the Senate, an assessment will be a prerequisite,” Senate President Don Gaetz said Friday.

Read more here.


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... and not only does every dollar used in this program not go into public schools, it also takes away tax money that would have gone into the Florida general fund, making it tougher to craft a decent budget. Since arts and education are always first on the chopping block, that means a double negative funding for the public schools if this expansion goes through.

Our American public schools and even specifically Florida public schools are not (primarily) as lousy as some people make them out to be. But it is true we can do better, provide a better, more relevant overall education via the FL public schools.

But vouchers and standardized testing is not the path to do that. All it does is pander to parents who want their kid to go to a private school for free or reduced price. All parents should care about improving the FL education system for ALL Florida students, not just theirs.

The path towards that is rethinking curriculum and providing a balance of what (realistically) our young people need to know and what skills they should have by the time they are 18 years of age in order to choose whether they want to continue to higher education, or go straight into the work force.

Both those avenues should be available to our young people in public school, not one over the other.

If there were more opportunities for kids to take classes that interested them, that would help reduce the drop-out rate.

I'm not saying high school students in order to get a HS diploma should not ever have to take (and pass with a C or better) Algebra, or American History, or English Lit/Composition or a basic science class - I'm saying, don't cut music, drama, art, shop classes, PE/sports, etc., for the sake of trying to inflate test scores in those areas.

And that what happens with this type of testing. Actual learning, education, goes flying out the window.

Reminder to self: E-mail Weatherford tomorrow ....

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