January 6, 2006

Florida vouchers

I haven't had time yet to read the Florida Supreme Court decision striking down Gov. Bush's first voucher program. Apparently it was based on the uniform public education clause in the state constitution. Ironically, the question is close to the issue that was disposed of first in this long-lived lawsuit, whether the state can spend any public funding on private education, and the state supreme court decided not to take the case after the First District Court of Appeals had sided with the state in 2000.

The governor will almost certainly try an end-run around this decision, in one of two ways. First, they'll consider putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot for 2006 or 2008 to end the uniform bit. I suspect they'll decide in the end that it's a losing proposition, politically, and won't put it on. Second, they'll try to recreate the voucher programs through the corporate tax-credit scheme they've already established. But I don't think that's going to secure any more funding than already exists (and I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that corporate donations to the tax-credit scheme are quasi-political, with the motivation, supposition, or assumption that donations to the tax-credit scheme are a way of gaining political access, akin to donating to non-profits that federal legislators are associated with).

But court decisions are more than legal—they're also political—and the Florida supreme court has made the double-standard in accountability with voucher schools very, very visible. It won't go away, and it's very tough to explain with a straight face why local public schools have to have their kids tested, with scores revealed for the whole world, while private schools receiving vouchers don't.

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Posted in Education policy on January 6, 2006 7:36 AM |