Speaking to the Economic Club of Florida today in Tallahassee, Tampa venture capitalist John Kirtley likened the push for "school choice" in Florida's public education system to the Cold War divisions the Berlin Wall illustrated.
East Berlin, he said, was like today's traditional public school system -- "where decisions were made at the top" and a uniform system applied to everyone -- whereas West Berlin offered freedom and economic opportunities.
"I think that it’s just too hard, even if you have the best people, to manage a huge system from the top down and allocate resources that way," Kirtley told a crowd of about 150 people at the Economic Club luncheon. "If parents were empowered to choose, it would be better for teachers, better for parents and better for students."
Kirtley has been an influential voice in education in the Sunshine State. He fought 15 years ago for lawmakers to create the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program and now serves as chairman of Step Up for Students, the main organization that doles out those voucher-like scholarships to help poor children attend private school.
He has numerous other roles on the boards of national and state pro-"school choice" organizations and, in recent years, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions to get "school choice" advocates elected to county school boards and the Florida Legislature.