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Controversy Surrounds FL's Tax Credit Scholarship Program

PHOTO: Florida faces a lawsuit from the Florida Education Association because of its Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Photo by: Jenn Greiving
PHOTO: Florida faces a lawsuit from the Florida Education Association because of its Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Photo by: Jenn Greiving
July 28, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A bill signed into law this summer expands Florida's Tax Credit Scholarship program, but the Florida Education Association has sued the state, challenging the voucher program.

More than 2,6 million children attend Florida public schools, but only a fraction - 50,000 - take advantage of the Tax Credit Scholarship program. That number is expected to grow as a result of the new law, but the Florida Education Association is claiming it violates the state constitution. FEA Vice President Joanne McCall explained the teachers' position.

"It's a way to divert money from public schools into unregulated schools that have no accountability," she said. "They don't have to follow the state's academic standards. They don't have to hire qualified teachers."

Supporters of the scholarship program say it's a way to level the financial playing field for some students who would perform better in a more specialized school setting, and that it offers parents more choices. The FEA argued that the state should allocate the resources spent on the program to improving public schools.

McCall insisted that the Florida Legislature is ignoring the fact that public schools don't currently have the resources needed to take care of their students.

"It's their paramount duty to fund public schools adequately, and they don't do that," she said. "They are always looking at scheme after scheme - at how they can divert money into private corporations to make people wealthy."

Each of Florida's charter schools is managed by a charter holder, which in many cases is a for-profit educational management company. According to published reports, in south Florida, charter schools are a $400 million-a-year business.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - FL