Florida Enters the Voucher Wars
March 25, 2004
Florida will be a pivotal battleground this November, but on the crucial subject of education reform the battle in that state is already joined. In the past five years Florida has delivered real school choice to more American schoolchildren than anywhere else in the country.
National attention has focused largely on Milwaukee, Cleveland and the District of Columbia, but Florida now has three key programs. The first is Opportunity Scholarships, which allow children to opt out of failing public schools. Second is McKay Scholarships, which provide full school choice to special-ed students. But perhaps the most innovative is a corporate tax credit that allows businesses to take a dollar-for-dollar deduction for every contribution to a designated scholarship fund:
- In terms of sheer numbers this is the most far-reaching, with 13,000 low-income students now benefiting and 20,000 on a waiting list.
- Because these corporately funded scholarships are capped at $3,500 per child in a state where the average per pupil expenditure runs around $7,500, each scholarship represents not only a lifeline for the recipient but significant savings for the taxpayer.
A just-released study from the Indianapolis-based Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation highlights Florida's achievements. When the various state programs across America were measured against Friedman's original concept of vouchers, Florida's programs took three of the top eight slots. And another study, by the Manhattan Institute, finds that even kids without vouchers benefit because the competition is pushing Florida public schools to improve.
Source: Editorial, "The Empire Strikes Back," Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2004.
For WSJ text (subscription required)
For Manhattan Institute study
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