Fix Florida's public schools; quit funding vouchers, charters

May 4, 2014 

Florida Legislature

Democratic Representatives meet in the back of the Florida House, Friday, May 2, 2014, before the start of a debate on a school voucher bill. At the center is Rep. Perry Thurston, D- Minority Leader, Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Jim Waldman, D- Coconut Creek. On the right is Darryl Rouson, D- St. Petersburg and Jared Moskowitz, D- Coral Springs. A heated debate followed on the bill.

SCOTT KEELER — AP

The recent proposal in the Legislature to expand the tax-funded educational voucher program has ominous portent for Florida's public education system.

Neither vouchers nor charter schools will end poverty, which is at the root of our low performing public school systems.

Vouchers have been around for a number of years, and their student outcome record is no better than that of their public school counterparts.

This in spite of their tendency to "cherry pick" students who are already doing well in public schools, have no learning disabilities, and are from homes with parents with means for support.

As a result, the public schools are left with a higher percentage of "problem students" needing extra help, but with fewer resources to do the job due to the diversion of resources to the charter schools.

Vouchers divert public tax-derived funds to private and religious schools whose students are not subject to any state testing -- hence there is no oversight as to what or how they teach. Further, diversion of tax-derived funds to a religious school is clearly unconstitutional; it should not be allowed.

At the end of World War II, the American public education system became the world's "powerhouse" of learning.

We have allowed this system to deteriorate, and as a result we are now, educationally, far from the top, and this rush to increase voucher programs will surely accelerate the deterioration.

The countries with the best student outcomes are Finland and Korea, neither of which have voucher programs or charter schools.

If a public school is failing, fix it, and all students, regardless of ethnic background or support from family, will benefit.

Abe Epstein

Bradenton

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