Monday, May 12, 2008

Corporate Vouchers Victorious in Florida

When state legislators in Florida offer children and parents either a rundown, under-funded, segregated testing factory or a tax-supported corporate voucher to a Christian school, the school choice has already been made--and it hasn't been made by the parent or the child.

Nevertheless, a growing number of legislators in Florida have seen the light at the bottom of their vortex. They have convinced themselves that they are not voting for vouchers--they are voting for scholarships. They are not giving up their civic commitment to provide for citizens in order that corporations may be relieved of their tax burden--they are saving children, even if it is from their own legislative and moral failure to provide for those children.

The amount of democracy within a society is directly proportionate to the amount of civic space remaining there. Oh, well.

Clips from St. Petersburg Times:
In 2001, Democrats in the Legislature pounded Republican plans to start a private school voucher program for poor and predominantly minority kids. They said it was unconstitutional, a drain on public schools, even un-American. In the end, all but one Democrat voted against it.

Times have changed. This year, a bill to vastly expand the same program passed by large margins.

And this time, a third of the Democratic caucus was on board.

"I'm a strong advocate for public school education, and I'm not necessarily a strong advocate for vouchers," said Rep. Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg, one of four Tampa Bay-area Democrats to vote yes. But "the bottom line has to be the child. If good things are happening for the child, then you can justify it."

. . . .

The legislation increases the amount of each scholarship to $3,950, up $200 from this year. The average cost per student in public school is about $7,000.

Some Democratic supporters say they back the program because unlike Opportunity Scholarships, the state's first voucher program — which the Florida Supreme Court struck down in 2006 — the money for tax-credit scholarships doesn't come directly out of state coffers. Some offered what critics call a semantic defense.

"I don't think I'm voting for a voucher," said Rep. Betty Reed, a Tampa Democrat who has 13 private schools in her district that accept tax-credit scholarships. "It's a scholarship." . . . .

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