Editor’s note: This opinion piece from Scott Kent, assistant director of strategic communications at Step Up For Students, appeared Sunday on the Citrus County Chronicle.
Ever since the seeds of education choice were planted in Florida more than 20 years ago, opponents have predicted that giving families more options in their children’s education would cripple public schools. While choice has blossomed, public schools have proved the naysayers wrong.
A recent column by the League of Women Voters is the latest to perpetuate the myth that parental choice threatens public education.
First, let’s dispel some misconceptions.
The constitutional case against vouchers is dubious at best. You won’t find in the Florida Constitution any language prohibiting school vouchers or requiring public schools to be the sole means of education. Although the Florida Supreme Court conveniently redefined “uniformity” to strike down the state’s first voucher program in 2006, the idea was invoked by opponents in two other cases, in 2017 and 2019, but failed to persuade courts to end the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for low-income students or charter schools.
Education savings accounts funded directly from the state’s budget are nothing new in Florida. They’ve been around since 2014, when the Gardiner Scholarship for special-needs students was created. Gardiner’s ESA is the biggest of its kind in the nation, currently serving over 17,000 students — and it has received nearly universal, bipartisan support.
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