Florida: Opinion: What If Big Education Put the Welfare of Children First?

Florida: Opinion: What If Big Education Put the Welfare of Children First?

Sunshine State News
By: Lloyd Brown
December 23, 2014

Defending the indefensible is a job only a lame duck should undertake.

Lame duck Wayne Blanton, soon to retire as head of the School Board Association, tried in a recent op-ed column to justify the lawsuit that seeks to wreck the tax credit scholarship program. He presented no new defense, relying instead on weightless and pointless arguments, much as the lawsuit does.

The lawsuit by Big Education – the powerful teacher unions and their supporters – could derail a program that is helping 70,000 kids in Florida get an education; an education the public schools have failed to provide them.

It has been one of the top stories of 2014 although it does not get the media attention it deserves.

Blanton chooses as his main argument the talking point that opponents have used all along: There is no way to know if taxpayers are getting their money’s worth because they don’t know if private schools are doing a better job than the government schools.

At the same time they make that argument, opponents of the program also are saying alternative schools are not doing a better job. They claim “research” shows charter and private schools are no better than public schools “on average.”

First, if they are no better then they are no worse.

But the real point is that children don’t attend “average” schools. They attend individual schools. And if they leave a failing school they are likely to be far better for the change. Parents should make that decision.

In the government school monopoly, parents are told where their child must attend school, and it isn’t always the nearest or the best school – or the safest.

Parents with the means can choose any school. But low-income kids have been held hostage by the monopoly – until the voucher programs began.

Monopolists succeeded in killing one voucher program that was operated by the state. But they haven’t been able to kill the tax credit scholarship program in the legislative arena, so they turned to the courts.

Blanton insists it is a major expense: $358 million out of a $77 billion state budget. Do the math.

But it is about money. Each child attending government school is an “FTE” worth several thousand dollars. Liberals claim falsely that schools incur a cost when kids don’t attend a school. Actually, all that happens is that they are not paid to educate a child who is not in their school.

If the program is killed, the kids will be forced back into schools they don’t want to attend, where they are not getting an education. But the state will have to pony up money for them, which will go to teachers, administrators and the teacher union leaders, who will use their share to finance the campaigns of liberal politicians.

This lawsuit cannot be defended. It is a naked power grab, intended to put money in the pockets of adults at the expense of Florida families and children.

What if Big Education actually put the welfare of children first?

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement he served as policy analyst for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.