Earlier this year, I wrote on Florida’s major expansion of education vouchers. It is wonderful to see that this legislation made it across the finish line. It is even more powerful than one imagined because it allows for even more students to enter the program than what was earlier discussed. Originally, the Senate attempted to keep the eligibility requirement at the 260 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Now that number is up to 300 percent, allowing for more students to enter.
Allowing “Up to 18,000 students [to] enroll in the program’s first year” is just the beginning as, “the number of students who can participate could rise in future years,” writes The Associated Press.
Not only does this legislation give each kid, especially “families with annual incomes at 300 percent of federal poverty guidelines” a chance to succeed, it gives parents the choice they deserve, awards teachers and principals for classroom effectiveness, and rewards the schools for overall “academic improvement.”
If you believe as I do, that parents know what’s best for their children, then you should applaud this legislation. The main reason this legislation is touted as a win is because, as Democratic Representative James Bush says, “this is the right stand for our children” showing that the focus shifts from an adult centered system to a student centered system.
Promoting choice and vouchers can be an important part of an overall strategy for improving our nation’s schools. However, the movement must not stop here. As Don Nielsen, author of Every School states, “The reality of our public schools is that choice, vouchers, and charters can apply only to a small percentage of our schools and of the students who attend them.”
It makes sense to push for charters, choice, and vouchers because there are still many constraints built within the education system. Nielsen argues, “each has the potential to improve the academic opportunity for some students, and that makes them worth trying. However, we need to recognize that the solution to our education crisis lies in improving our public schools, rather than adopting ideas that merely skirt the problem.” As long as we have a system that is ineffective at educating every child, these top-down methods, although beneficial to some, will not produce the systemic improvements we need.