Facing South

Florida double standard for voucher students

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Florida lawmakers say that 30,000 students attending private schools on taxpayer funded vouchers should not be held to the same FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) testing requirements as students attending public schools:

The Republican-controlled Florida House rejected a Democratic proposal Tuesday that would have required voucher students who attend private schools at taxpayer expense to take the same standardized test as children in public schools.

It was offered as an amendment to a bill (HB 7041) that would let most students in an unconstitutional voucher program switch to another one that has not yet been challenged in court.

The amendment would have required that voucher students, except those who are disabled, take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, which the state uses to grade public schools. It failed on a voice vote.

The House is expected to take a final vote Thursday on the bill. It would require voucher students to take other standardized tests chosen by their private schools or voluntarily take the FCAT, said the sponsor, Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka.

"If it's good for public schools, why aren't we painting everybody the same way?" asked Rep. Ron Greenstein, D-Coconut Creek. "If the FCAT is the whole and mighty grail in student promotion and student graduation, why shouldn't it go ... to these other schools, too?"

The article also notes that the Florida Supreme Court recently overturned another voucher program because it violated the state's constitution requirement for uniform public education. It will be interesting to see if this FCAT legislation, if it passes, also makes it to the Florida Supreme Court.

There has been a pattern in Florida of penalizing public education while propping up private schools and vouchers in an apparent effort to make a test case proving that public education is failing and that vouchers are the solution. Just last year, the Florida Senate rejected Gov. Bush's proposal to eliminate class size limits imposed by a 2002 constitutional amendment approved by Florida's voters.

And speaking of FCAT, there's this from another report on the debate of Gov. Jeb Bush's "A-Plus-Plus" program (no, we're not making this up, it's double-plus good!):

Rep. Rafael Arza, R-Hialeah, introduced the bill with the air of a man who knows the outcome is preordained. He didn't really need to answer questions of the other side, but he indulged them a little.

Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, wanted to know why Florida's high school graduation rate had fallen to 50th in the nation, two years in a row, since A-Plus came in.

Arza didn't know. His own talking points showed that the state was graduating more high school kids than ever. He said he'd look into it. Said it with a smile that said, "Why are you wasting everyone's time?"

Maybe that's why they don't want private school voucher students to take the test?

The rest of the report on the debate is somewhat humorous but also sad in a way. It's snapshot of how the GOP operates when they have absolute power. Another amusing excerpt:

Rep. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, wanted to include health and physical education in the target curriculum to help students fight obesity.

At the voice vote, I heard a wan chorus of "aye."

Then a resounding "NAY!"

This was a switch. Girly-man Democrats voting for P.E. and macho Republicans shouting them down.

As they say, read the whole thing.

OK, then.

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