To highlight the power of school choice, Jeb Bush, during his prime time slot at the Republican National Convention, turned the mic over to a former student from Miami. Frantz Placide, 24, calmly but directly told millions of viewers that a private school voucher program in Florida gave him the opportunity to bypass his neighborhood school – “unproductive and failing” – and attend an academically rigorous Catholic school. The voucher “gave me the chance to achieve academic success,” he said. “I took it from there.”
In an interview today with redefinED, Placide offered more details about his educational path – and more testimony about the difference that additional learning options can make for kids. “I just wanted to let everyone know,” he said, “that because I had a choice in my education, I was granted a better life.”
Placide, who grew up in the Little Haiti section of Miami, was zoned to attend an F-rated public high school with low grad rates and lots of distractions. But with an “opportunity scholarship” from the state’s first voucher program, he instead attended Archbishop Curley Note Dame. “It was wonderful,” he said. “You learned so much coming in as a freshman. And when you leave as a senior, you’re ready to take on the world.”
Placide graduated in 2006 and went on to Wagner College in Staten Island, where he graduated in 2010 with a sociology degree. He’s now in the application process to become a state trooper in New Jersey – and on the verge of fulfilling a lifelong dream of serving in law enforcement.
In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the voucher program that benefitted Placide, declaring it at odds with state constitutional provisions for a “uniform” public school system. “It was very disappointing to me,” he said, “knowing that students who were hungry for education … wouldn’t have that same opportunity that I had.”
Despite the ruling, Florida continues to offer private K-12 options through McKay Scholarships for disabled students and tax-credit scholarships for low-income students. (Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog, administers the latter.)
In the interview, Placide stressed that his support for vouchers was not a knock on traditional public schools. He said he liked his traditional middle school, and his brothers have excelled at traditional high schools. “I didn’t want my message last night to be misunderstood,” he said. “You have some great public schools.”
Unfortunately, he said, he wasn’t zoned for one. “And that’s why I benefitted most (from the voucher), because I was allowed to choose which school that I attended.”
To hear the interview with Placide, click on the link below.