Setting the Record Straight on Florida’s Tax-Credit Scholarships

August 30, 2016


(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)

Opponents of school choice spend a great deal of time and energy perpetuating all sorts of easily debunked myths about choice programs. In Florida, the state teachers’ union has worked very hard to spread two such myths about the state’s tax-credit scholarship program, which Mark Pudlow of the Florida Education Association calls a “scheme”:

“It’s a scheme because this tax credit voucher [sic] was enacted by the Legislature to circumvent a previous state Supreme Court ruling saying that public money could not go to fund vouchers,” he said. “So the Legislature set up a scheme that would allow certain types of taxes to be ‘donated’ to the groups administering the voucher program. So instead of paying taxes to the state, they were forgiven their tax obligation if they donated the exact same amount of money to the voucher administrators.”

Fortunately, the Daily Commercial gave Ron Matus of Step Up for Students, Florida’s largest scholarship organization, the opportunity to set the record straight:

“The union kept saying the tax credit scholarships were done to circumvent the ruling,” he said. “Their timeline is off. The fact of the matter is the tax credit scholarship program was passed by the legislature and signed into law in 2001, five years before the Supreme Court ruling. The opponent keeps arguing the program drains money from public schools. Every single study that has been done over many years by multiple different parties that has looked at the fiscal impact says it does not harm public schools or drain money from public schools.”

The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability estimated the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program saved the state $36.2 million in 2008.

Government Accountability stated that while the program “reduces the amount of tax revenues received by the state, it produces a net fiscal benefit.”

This academic year, Step Up for Students will provide more than 90,000 tax-credit scholarships to students so that they can attend the school of their choice. Additionally, they will administer nearly 6,000 education savings accounts. Florida also has a second scholarship organization, AAA Scholarship Foundation, so it’s likely that more than 100,000 Florida students will receive tax-credit scholarships this year.

As Step Up demonstrates, scholarship organizations do much more than just cut checks. They also can provide parents with vital information about their educational options, help connect parents and schools, and–when necessary–they can organize to defend the scholarships from outside attacks. As Jay noted in a recent post, politically viable policies require “constituents who can then be mobilized to protect and expand” them. School choice policies generate those constituents, and as Step Up has amply demonstrated, scholarship organizations can mobilize them.

This is about justice

January 20, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Rev.Martin Luther King III, a long-time parental choice supporter, addressed a crowd of 10,000 strong at a rally in Tallahassee yesterday.

“I just find it interesting that in our country we have the gall to debate about how our most precious resource — our children — are treated,” he said.

“My dad, I don’t really know if I can actually speak to what he would speak today, but I can say is that he would always  stand up for justice,” he added. “This is about justice.”

Meanwhile the VP of the Florida Education Association, who once referred to children with disabilities and low-income children benefiting from Florida choice programs as “hit dogs” had this to say:

“What are they so afraid of going to the courts to ensure this voucher scheme is legal?” Joanne McCall, the union’s president, asked. “Let’s let the courts decide this once and for all. We’re not dropping our legal challenge.”

Let me get out my Big Chief Tablet and crayons and draw a picture for McCall here really slowly and with bright colors so she can follow along. Why are they so afraid of a judicial assault on their program? That’s easy:

These kids and parents fear losing access to their schools because people like you won’t leave them alone to pursue their dreams.

To Rev. Martin Luther King III this is about justice and the opportunity of children. Joanne McCall says this about adult turf and adult power. If there is a moral difference between redneck governors standing at the school house doors to keep kids out of school with a baseball bat, and union bosses wanting to go into schools to kick kids out of schools with legal baseball bats, the distinction escapes me.

Florida School Choice Rally

April 8, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Another video of the largest parental choice rally in history. A final vote on the Step Up for Students expansion is expected today:

UPDATE The Florida House has passed the tax credit expansion with a strong bipartisan majority, gaining  the support of 20 of the 43 House Democrats present, including the support of the ranking Democrat on the Education Policy Council. It also was supported by 11 of 18 Black Caucus members voting.

Newscast from the Florida Rally

March 25, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

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