Florida Passes School Choice Plan
April 19, 1999
On Friday, Florida's Senate passed by 36 to 14 a bill to hand out "opportunity scholarships" to students in failing schools to attend the school of their choice -- private, public or parochial. Some issues must be reconciled with a House bill which passed earlier.
Here is a brief sketch of some of the main features of the Florida plan:
- While students at only four schools will be affected next year, 169 schools may qualify the following year -- affecting as many as 170,000 of the state's 2.2 million public school students.
- Using statewide tests to grade school performance, students at schools getting an "F" in two out of four years would get scholarships worth about $4,000 -- with special education and bilingual children eligible for more.
- Most of the students who would first benefit from the plan are poor and from minority groups.
- The bill includes a 6.12 percent increase in school spending and a provision that rewards schools with good or rising grades an extra $100 per student.
Failing schools could initially get more money and other aid to help raise performance.
Still unresolved are issues such as the number of students in failing schools who qualify for the scholarships, possible restrictions on who is qualified to teach in schools accepting the scholarships, and certain curricula requirements.
Observers predict that foes of the plan are almost certain to sue on church-state grounds.
Source: Anna Bray Duff, "The Sun Shines on School Choice," Investor's Business Daily, April 19, 1999.
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