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Rick Scott’s bold education plan draws bevy of critics


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Wed Dec 15, 5:24 pm ET

Rick Scott’s bold education plan draws bevy of critics

By Liz Goodwin

Newly elected Florida Gov. Rick Scott is making waves with his proposal that all children should receive education vouchers they can use to attend private, public or charter schools.

"The parent should figure out where the dollars for that student are spent," the Republican governor-elect told the St. Petersburg Times. "So if the parents want to spend it on virtual school, then spend it on virtual school. If they want to spend it on, you know, whatever education system they believe in, whether it's this public school or that public school or this private school or that private school, that's what ought to happen."

The idea has previously won backing from the late Nobel-laureate economist Milton Friedman and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as a way to foster competition among schools and give parents more choice in their children's education. But there is one major hitch: The Florida Supreme Court has ruled private-school vouchers unconstitutional, concluding that they endanger the free public school system. And, it turns out, many in the education world agree, and not even only those connected to the teachers union (though for the record, a Florida teachers union spokesman called it a "terrible idea.").

The details of the plan are still unclear, but the proposed voucher would most likely be for $5,500, the average state per-pupil contribution to public school students. The state would deposit that sum into each individual child's "education savings account" (theoretically every Florida child would have one) instead of into school districts' coffers. (The state currently doles out vouchers for some low-income and disabled students, a program that has not been challenged in court.)

"I don't think the idea of draining the treasury of public education is practical. There's a place for public schools, they do great work in the community," private Catholic-school principal Rick Pucci told a Tampa news station. "This plan may rob public schools of the things they need. I'm not in favor of it."

In an editorial, the St. Petersburg Times called it a "fuzzy vision" that will drain money from public schools without raising new revenue to replace it. The paper questioned whether private schools would be able to handle the increased demand, and also referred to a 2009 study mandated by Congress that showed students who used vouchers to attend private schools did not perform better than those who stayed in public schools. (This study drained some support from the reform community away from vouchers.)

And the opposition isn't just local. Education historian Diane Ravitch tells The Lookout Scott's plan could hold up in court if passed by lawmakers, despite the state Supreme Court ruling. "The real danger is that he sends a signal that it's politically fine to attack public education, which has been one of our most valued institutions and a bulwark of our democracy," she writes.

Several conservative lawmakers and think tanks have lined up behind the proposal, however. "I don't think it's radical at all,'' Lindsey Burke, education policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, told the Miami Herald. "At this point, the radical notion is to trap a child in a failing public school.''

And Michelle Rhee, the former D.C. schools chancellor advising Scott on education, has supported private school vouchers as a way to give parents more choice.

Scott is also expected to tackle teacher tenure and institute a new teacher evaluation system partly based on student test scores.

(Photo of Scott: AP)

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Wed Dec 15, 5:24 pm ET

Rick Scott’s bold education plan draws bevy of critics

By Liz Goodwin

Newly elected Florida Gov. Rick Scott is making waves with his proposal that all children should receive education vouchers they can use to attend private, public or charter schools.

"The parent should figure out where the dollars for that student are spent," the Republican governor-elect told the St. Petersburg Times. "So if the parents want to spend it on virtual school, then spend it on virtual school. If they want to spend it on, you know, whatever education system they believe in, whether it's this public school or that public school or this private school or that private school, that's what ought to happen."

The idea has previously won backing from the late Nobel-laureate economist Milton Friedman and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as a way to foster competition among schools and give parents more choice in their children's education. But there is one major hitch: The Florida Supreme Court has ruled private-school vouchers unconstitutional, concluding that they endanger the free public school system. And, it turns out, many in the education world agree, and not even only those connected to the teachers union (though for the record, a Florida teachers union spokesman called it a "terrible idea.").

The details of the plan are still unclear, but the proposed voucher would most likely be for $5,500, the average state per-pupil contribution to public school students. The state would deposit that sum into each individual child's "education savings account" (theoretically every Florida child would have one) instead of into school districts' coffers. (The state currently doles out vouchers for some low-income and disabled students, a program that has not been challenged in court.)

"I don't think the idea of draining the treasury of public education is practical. There's a place for public schools, they do great work in the community," private Catholic-school principal Rick Pucci told a Tampa news station. "This plan may rob public schools of the things they need. I'm not in favor of it."

In an editorial, the St. Petersburg Times called it a "fuzzy vision" that will drain money from public schools without raising new revenue to replace it. The paper questioned whether private schools would be able to handle the increased demand, and also referred to a 2009 study mandated by Congress that showed students who used vouchers to attend private schools did not perform better than those who stayed in public schools. (This study drained some support from the reform community away from vouchers.)

And the opposition isn't just local. Education historian Diane Ravitch tells The Lookout Scott's plan could hold up in court if passed by lawmakers, despite the state Supreme Court ruling. "The real danger is that he sends a signal that it's politically fine to attack public education, which has been one of our most valued institutions and a bulwark of our democracy," she writes.

Several conservative lawmakers and think tanks have lined up behind the proposal, however. "I don't think it's radical at all,'' Lindsey Burke, education policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, told the Miami Herald. "At this point, the radical notion is to trap a child in a failing public school.''

And Michelle Rhee, the former D.C. schools chancellor advising Scott on education, has supported private school vouchers as a way to give parents more choice.

Scott is also expected to tackle teacher tenure and institute a new teacher evaluation system partly based on student test scores.

(Photo of Scott: AP)

I forget what country uses a similar system. It was on 60 minutes a few years back and I think it was Belgium or one of the countries close to it. From what I recall about the program is that the kids are flourishing in this type of school system. You can go to a school that's geared more towards the arts or one geared towards engineering or even religion. Ill try to find the video on it.

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Hamma, the knock on her going to Jersey was that the school system in Jersey (and Newark in particular if you believe that) was better than anything in DC so there was no way to go but down!! Rhee IS NOT as good as advertised, so anyone in Florida needs to be aware of that fact. The people up here (I do not have a kid in the DC school system, but I do work here in DC) didn't mind the reforms, it was how she did it, which was quite confrontational! She also had them teaching to the test, so the kids really weren't 'learning' but were simply being drilled on how to beat the test!!!

I was not aware of that. I thought Chris Christie in NJ offered her a job.

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The voucher plan is a great idea. Not only does it encourage competition among schools but it also puts parents in a situation where they must be more active in their childs education. It is the opposite of what the teacher's unions want. They want parents to continue to delegate the responsibility of education to schools.

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The voucher plan is a great idea. Not only does it encourage competition among schools but it also puts parents in a situation where they must be more active in their childs education. It is the opposite of what the teacher's unions want. They want parents to continue to delegate the responsibility of education to schools.

The problem with vouchers is that it's a trojan horse. As soon as the voucher program becomes successful, the powerful lobbyist in the teachers union will convince their lapdogs in the state that any school that receives state money should be held to the same "standards" that the teachers in the public school are. They will then proceed to infiltrate and unionize all of the private schools that apply to the voucher program and things will be even worse off than they are now.

Until they remove the facet of force and state coercion from education, we will continue to have a society that is morally corrupt and citizens that are unable to think critically.

The entire structure of indoctrination, memorization and testing is fatally flawed and just changing the source of funding won't fix it.

Solution.... Unschooling

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The problem with vouchers is that it's a trojan horse. As soon as the voucher program becomes successful, the powerful lobbyist in the teachers union will convince their lapdogs in the state that any school that receives state money should be held to the same "standards" that the teachers in the public school are. They will then proceed to infiltrate and unionize all of the private schools that apply to the voucher program and things will be even worse off than they are now.

Until they remove the facet of force and state coercion from education, we will continue to have a society that is morally corrupt and citizens that are unable to think critically.

The entire structure of indoctrination, memorization and testing is fatally flawed and just changing the source of funding won't fix it.

Solution.... Unschooling

I wonder if a voucher program would allow schools to refuse voucher students? I know that Hillsdale College in Michigan refuses and federal funding to defend against the very encroachment that your talking about. I agree with you that the lack of liberty is the biggest problem in education. Parental involvement is the single most profound factor in a childs education. Kids whose parents set high standards and enforce them succeed in even the worst schools.

Edited by Flip Flop
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