>The Biased ABCs to Florida Education

>My publisher’s latest blog points out Gov. Charlie Crist’s recent signing of an expansion on Florida’s private school voucher program. Senate Bill 2126 broadens the number of students allowed to participate in the program and increases the cap by $22 million, from $118 million to $140 million in FY 2010-2011. From there, the cap will increase.

I see the program as both good and evil. It’s a fantastic opportunity to allow kids who otherwise could not receive high levels of education to immerse themselves in a nurturing, learning environment.

But my biggest beef with it is what about the public schools? It upsets me that with Florida’s dismal public school systems, money — private or public, from individual or corporations — is not focused on our public schools. The message I feel Senate Bill 2126 gives is that Florida is here to help a select number of students, not the entire body of them.

I think excellent education should be a standard. Anywhere. Not just at private schools. There are several socio-economic factors that prevent many public schools from achieving the high test results private schools receive. It seems the Florida Lotto is not doing enough to help out these students, and my hope that a future program will transform the lives of tens of thousands of students.

It should be noted that Senate Bill 2126 had bipartisan support. Democrats were quietly won over with the idea that vouchers have merit. “I am a great fan of the public schools,” said Rep. Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg. “But there are some kids it doesn’t reach. For those kids, this is an opportunity.”

Private schools rightly have a place in society, and they are achieving fantastic results for our nation’s future. But, aren’t private schools funded by (and stay in business because) of private funds (so literal, I know)? I think it’s called tuition. Like, $18,000 a year tuition. For kindergarten. 

Because of that, shouldn’t any government funding help out those not funded by private people and institutions?

My publisher also points out how private schools in his hometown of Philadelphia are closing. But private schooling is just like any other business — if it goes busts, it must be for a reason. I hate to bring religion into this (especially because I’m pro everyone’s right to choose their faith and practice freely), but it’s been mentioned that several historic private Catholic schools have closed down. Senate Bill 2126 can use these tax credits to make everyone happy (administrators and certain low-income students), and the Catholic schools will stay in business. But let’s think about why these institutions need this bail-out to avoid shutting their doors. It’s hard to accept that the Catholic schools are getting much good press these days. Let’s just say all these alleged cases of priests molesting kids don’t help out. Perhaps the saying “there’s no such thing as bad press” doesn’t hold water in this case.

So while I applaud the government’s actions to give this small percentage of indigent students a chance at fantastic, academically proven learning institutions, I also scratch my head to the notion that there’s not a broader chance to help all students. I remain truly happy that some low-income families will have the same opportunities to give their children the same level of education as affluent families. But, public schools shouldn’t be considered “throw-away” schools that the poor and unlucky attend. Senate Bill 2126 only enforces that notion. I’m afraid this will be the beginning of the end of the possibility of a good public school education.

The irony lies that in order to complete his blog, my publisher needed my help to figure out how to post it. He went to private school his entire life. I went to public.

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