Article IX of Florida’s Constitution clearly states that it is a “paramount duty” for the state to adequately fund a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high-quality system of free public schools.”
However, over the past two decades, the legislature has failed to meet that mandate. Year after year politicians hand over more and more public dollars to unaccountable, privately-run and religious schools.
Rather than ensuring every student’s success by funding a high-quality, uniform system, Florida has funded parallel systems run by for-profit charter corporations and unaccountable religious and private schools.
When it comes to private school performance, we don’t know if their students are receiving a basic education. Private schools are exempt from our state’s teacher certification and curriculum standards and from reporting comparable student progress. A three-part Orlando Sentinel investigative report, “Schools Without Rules”, raised very serious concerns about the lack of oversight of Florida’s voucher schools.
What we do know is that the majority of students who attend these private schools through the state’s voucher program only do so for one or two years. When those students return to public schools, they score lower than students who never left.
Despite all of that, the Legislature continues to divert more funds from public schools to unaccountable privately-run and religious schools. Nearly $970 million of Florida’s combined K-12 expenditures are spent on private school vouchers. Returning these taxpayer dollars to public schools would directly benefit the schools that educate all of Florida’s students.
The facts are clear: For-profit charters and private schools that accept vouchers spend more per student for administrative and overhead costs than neighborhood public schools. That means fewer of our public dollars are spent in the classroom. Taxpayers are funding a parallel system that is more wasteful and inefficient than a single school system.
Neighborhood public schools educate almost 80% of Florida’s students and remain the top choice for parents and students across the state. The legislature needs to respect the choice of those who choose public schools and meet their constitutional obligation to adequately fund a uniform system of education.