"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Corporate Vouchers and the Smell of Doing "Good"

If you want to smell close up the reek of the corporate welfare parasites that are feeding off what remains of public education, sniff no further than Florida and its corporate voucher program.

Advertised as a way to offer better choices to poor parents of children in poor schools, the Corporate Tax Credit voucher program neither requires children to have ever been enrolled in a "failing" public school, nor does it come anywhere close in providing enough money to provide anything other than marginal schooling. The voucher is worth just about half of what the state paid would pay for a public education.

Both of these clean feats are accomplished while providing the corporations that give to the voucher fund a dollar in reduced taxes for every dollar they put into the fund. So in the end the public schools are further bled by a shrinkage of $6,106 for every child whose parents opt for the $3,416 voucher, while parents are stuck looking for a school that can provide an education as good as the public schools without the benefit of any accountablility requirement of those private "schools" accepting the public dollars. Thank you, Jeb Bush, for leaving this shiny trail for the world to see what a smelly slug you really are.

Sadly, the ploy of "educating" the poor at a big savings in taxes that can be turned into tax write-offs for corporations engaged in this variety of blood-sucking beneficence is not limited to Florida's corporate voucher program. It is the power source fueling the non-profit charter school movement as well. Large social entrepreneurial investment funds are ready for the feeding frenzy that they anticipate when Obama's Secretary Duncan fires the starting gun for the new race to pilfer the federal treasury for corporate benefit, while bringing the death blow to public schools trying as they will to survive. And all of it will done in the drippingly cynical name of the poor, whose poverty will assuredly remain the untreated cause of their numerous gaps, from achievement to health to job to prison, for yet another generation that remains preoccupied by "bold education reform."

Here is the story Winter Park Observer by a guest writer. The corporate media, not even the Winter Park Observer, is interested in putting a paid reporter on this:

By Kristy Vickery
Guest Writer

As public school officials contemplate how to deal with an increasing deficit, a new report on the cost of private school vouchers could put more pressure on them.

"The only way to get funding for a school is if a child is sitting in a desk," Orange County School Board Chairwoman Joie Cadle said. "Having more (private school) vouchers would take money away from public schools."

A report released last week by the state Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, or OPPAGA, shows that students choosing private schools may cost individual school systems money, but the state will actually spend less per pupil on students who use vouchers.

The OPPAGA report says the Corporate Tax Credit, a voucher program established in 2001 to help low-income students afford private school tuition, saved state taxpayers $38.9 million last school year and currently serves 23,234 students from households whose income meets federal guidelines for free and reduced lunch.

"We welcome OPPAGA's findings," said John Kirtley, chairman of the Florida School Choice Fund and the Tampa businessman who helped create the program. "We certainly want taxpayers to know we are saving them money, and we hope our partners in public education benefit from our savings."

Students in private schools cost the state less than students in public schools. According to the report, in 2007-08, the cost of the average scholarship for a student in private schools was $3,412, compared with the state cost of $6,106 in public schools. It is also estimated that 90 percent of scholarship recipients would have attended a public school if they had not received a scholarship through the program. For each $1 lost through corporate tax credits, the state saves $1.49 in general revenue.

"While the program reduces the amount of corporate tax revenues received by the state, it produces a net fiscal benefit," the report stated. "This occurs because state education spending for students who receive scholarships is reduced by more than the amount of revenue lost."

Although these savings please Kirtley, he said it is not the purpose of the program.

"The purpose of the program is not to save taxpayers money, but to give low-income families more educational options if their kids are struggling in their assigned schools," he said. "Our only goal is to improve the educational outcomes of low-income kids."

But some public school officials warn against low-income families making the choice to educate their children in a private setting.

Orange County School Board member Rick Roach said parents who use voucher programs should be careful.

"There's no proof that they improve the quality of education," Roach said.

Seminole County Public School Board member Jeanne Morris also has concerns about private school voucher programs.

"Students lose all constitutional rights in private school settings," Morris said.

Morris also said she questions the quality of education students receive under these programs because they are not required to take the same tests as students in public schools.

"There's no measurement to see the success of education these kids are receiving," Morris said. "And when you set your own grades, you can give kids whatever grades they want."

The OPPAGA report states that private school representatives will not encourage their schools to participate in state tests, such as the FCAT, and some would likely stop accepting scholarship students if required to use the FCAT. The report does undermine the argument that vouchers drain public school funds.

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