NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 11, 2006

If there were lingering doubts that teachers unions are the worms in the apple of the American education system, take a look at the monumental setback for school reform in Florida, says the Wall Street Journal.

Last week, the unions in Tallahassee bullied all but one Democrat and four Republicans in the state senate to kill a school voucher bill that has already had a sterling record for success for thousands of children in districts with failing public schools.

If that decision isn't reversed, one of the most heralded school reform measures anywhere in the country will be dismantled, and 775 school kids, 90 percent of whom are minorities, will be returned to the warehouses that are failed inner-city schools, says the Journal.

  • Under Governor Jeb Bush's seven-year-old "Florida A+ School Accountability and Choice Program," schools have been graded; any school that received an "F" in two of four years is deemed a failure, and the kids get a voucher to attend another school, public or private.
  • One immediate impact, say researchers at Harvard, Florida State and the James Madison Institute, has been that the mere threat of competition caused many inner-city schools to improve; the percentage of African Americans who are now performing at or above grade level surged to 66 percent last year, from 23 percent in 1999.
  • But in one of the most absurd legal decisions in modern times, the Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that the voucher program violated the "uniformity clause" of the state constitution guaranteeing a high-quality system of public schools.

Many throughout the state were so enraged that they vowed to change the state constitution, but union pressure was so intense that the state senate failed by one vote to allow a referendum to take place. Unions and their Democratic allies -- who claim to represent these black and Hispanic families -- are celebrating their triumph in relegating another generation of children to their educational ghetto, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "Rotten Apples," Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2006.

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