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Topic: School Voucher Plan for Florida
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
School Voucher Plan for Florida
Posted: May 8, 1999 8:48 AM
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From Southern Illinoisan, Saturday, May 1, 1999, p.5A

Florida school voucher plan goes to governor

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The Legislature gave final approval Friday to the
establishment of the nation's only statewide program to allow students to
attend private schools at taxpayer expense.

All students in the worst public schools, regardless of their income or
their grades, will be eligible for vouchers ranging from $3,000 to 25,000 a
year to help pay for private or parochial school tuition.

The voucher program passed the Senate 25-15 on the last day of the
legislative session Friday. The House approved it 70-48 two days earlier.

Gov. Jeb Bush made the program a centerpiece of his campaign and one of his
top priorities.

"This is an effort to improve public schools but it's also a recognition
that when there's chronic failure it's just morally right to provide
parents other options," Bush said.

Opponents of the measure have threatened to sue, warning it will destroy
public education and violate the constitutional separation of church and
state. Florida has 2 million public school students.

Under the legislation, schools will be graded A, B, C, D or F, based on
student performance. Students in schools that get a failing grade will be
entitled to go to private school. The tax money would be taken out of
public education.

A child of special needs could receive up to $25,000. Scores in only four
of Florida's 3,000 public schools are now so bad they would qualify. But
with tougher standards approved late last year, the number of flunking
schools could climb to 170.

Milwaukee and Cleveland have started voucher programs in recent years.
Vermont has allowed tax dollars to be spent for private school tuition in
rural areas for more than a century. Maine has a similar program to

In Florida, the issue dominated the two-month legislative session, with
supporters saying it will give schools an incentive to improve and will
help children get a better education.

Republican Sen. John McKay said the law will "allow students to escape from
failing schools."

Opponents argued public schools will be abandoned and drained of money they
can ill-afford to lose. Critics also warned about the use of vouchers to
pay for parochial school tuition.

Rep. Steve Geller said: "What I believe is this is the beginning of the end
for public education."

"We're not going to let that happen," said Leon Russell, president of the
Florida State Conference of Branches of the NAACP. Other opponents include
the Florida PTA, the state's two teacher unions and the American Civil
Liberties Union.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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