NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Voucher Experiment Launched in Florida

March 14, 2000

Florida is the first state to grant vouchers to students in schools who fail standardized tests and it will probably soon have the nation's largest voucher program. But students in two schools in an impoverished area of the Florida Panhandle have become the first to be awarded vouchers.

  • The first voucher students number only 53 -- while another 85 have elected to transfer to higher-performing public schools.
  • But school grades being released in June could expand the Florida program to as many as 60,000 students in 78 schools -- schools which received "F's" last year because of poor performances and those which don't improve this year.
  • Students who elected to take vouchers at the two public schools have settled into five private schools -- four being Catholic schools.
  • Parents of children who have transferred to private schools are reportedly enthusiastic over their children's progress -- but it will be years before results can be quantified.

Meanwhile, back in the two public schools, district and state grants have allowed the hiring of more teachers, smaller class sizes, afternoon tutoring and a school year 30 days longer.

But the schools have also shriveled the curriculum, emphasizing subjects that will help improve test scores. Since science and social studies are subjects not covered by standardized state tests, teaching them is shunned. Children are being drilled instead on reading, writing, math -- and test-taking tips and techniques.

Source: Jodi Wilgoren, "2 Florida Schools Have Become Test Ground for Vouchers," New York Times, March 14, 2000.


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