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Jeb’s Empire of School Choice

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Author: dianeravitch

In large part because of Jeb Bush, Florida is a national leader in privatization. It now has more than 100,000 students using vouchers for private schools, including religious schools, despite the fact that Florida voters rejected a Constitutional amendment to allow vouchers in 2012 by 58-42. The will of the voters is an inconvenient distraction to the privatization industry, nothing more.

 

Even more are enrolled in a burgeoning charter industry, despite the fact that charters regularly open and close, stranding students, and charters dominate the list of the state’s lowest-performing schools. Of course, Florida is a haven for for-profit entrepreneurs, who are encouraged by the state to open and compete with public schools, while sucking taxpayer dollars out of those public schools and funneling it to their investors.

 

With so much unrestrained school choice, Florida should be the state with the highest test scores and the highest graduation rate. It is not.

 

On the NAEP, Florida is smack dab at the national average in 4th grade math; significantly below the national average in 8th grade math; significantly above the national average in 4th grade reading; at the national average in 8th grade reading.

 

 

The only bright spot is 4th grade reading, and the performance there might be attributable to the state Constitutional amendment to reduce class size in the early grades, which voters approved despite Jeb’s opposition.

 

Florida’s high school graduation rate is 76% (over four years), as compared to a national average of 81%. Florida’s graduation rate is below that of Alabama, Arkansas, and tied with Mississippi.

 

What exactly has school choice done for students in Florida except to undermine public education? How does that help students? How does that improve education? Do taxpayers know how many millions of dollars have been wasted due to fraud, incompetence, and mismanagement? And how many millions have been siphoned off to pay investors instead of going to the classroom?

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