(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Despite the wishes of the parents of 69,000 low-income children, despite the fact that Florida districts improved outcomes substantially during an era of increasing parental options, despite positive third-party academic evaluations of the tax credit program, and despite Census Bureau projections that show that Florida’s district schools will likely face a severe overcrowding problem, the word is out that the Florida School Boards Association is set to file suit against Florida’s tax credit program. As you can see from the post below, Florida is one of the lower-income states. As you can see from the chart above, both the youth and elderly populations of Florida are set to substantially grow over the next decade and a half. Elderly people already consume a majority of Medicaid funding, and when your population of 65+ projects to grow from 3.4m to 7.8m you’ve got a huge problem on your hands.
The tax credit program will not begin to solve this problem by itself, but nothing will. Florida is going to need a series of policy innovations to improve state outcomes while lowering costs to get through this. Innovations with results **ahem** like the tax credit program. The average scholarship amount is about half of the public school spending rate. Better still, the third-party academic evaluations by Northwestern economist David Figlio found academic gains for both participating students and for public schools facing higher levels of competition.
If the Florida School Boards Association has a plan to deal with the age demographic storm on the horizon, which includes a projected million plus increase in the size of the K-12 population while the state ages, I would like to know what it is. Stamp out successful reforms and then cover the playgrounds with trailers and hope for the best? School districts are always going to be the backbone of the education system in Florida. Funding for education is guaranteed by the Florida Constitution and supported by the public.
Nevertheless, Florida urgently and badly needs improvement and innovation in the public sector, especially in K-12. This lawsuit represents a step in the wrong direction and more worrying still speaks to a complete lack of either awareness or seriousness about the challenges facing Florida’s future.