Commentary

More and Better Vouchers for Florida

Governor Jeb Bush is at it again. His new education package proposes perhaps the best school voucher model for failing students ever. (that is besides a full-scale voucher or tax credit program that every student was eligible for). More than 170,000 Florida students have flunked the state’s reading test three years in a row, a record that Gov. Jeb Bush thinks should qualify them for a voucher to a private school. His “Reading Compact Scholarship” is part of a broad new education package that Bush presented Wednesday. It would give a taxpayer-funded voucher to any student who scores at the lowest level on the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test for three consecutive years. “A parent’s ability to decide on the best school for their child should not be based on their income level,” Bush said at the announcement, where he was surrounded by top education officials and legislators. “School choice has been a catalyst for public school improvement.”. . . There are about 2.6-million children enrolled in Florida’s public schools. About 7 percent would qualify for one of Bush’s Reading Compact scholarships. Bush estimated about 6 percent of those students would take advantage of the program if it was passed by the Legislature. That would mean about 10,000 students would leave the public school system for private schools. The program would dramatically increase the size of Florida’s voucher efforts. About 25,000 students receive vouchers under one of the state’s three programs. If Bush’s estimate is correct, his proposal would increase the number of recipients by 40 percent. I like this program because it is truly a voucher program that targets the children who are being ill-served by the public school system. A student at an A school that scores low on the FCAT would still be eligible for a voucher.

Lisa Snell is the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Snell has frequently testified before the California State Legislature and numerous other state legislatures and government agencies. She has authored policy studies on school finance and weighted student funding, universal preschool, school violence, charter schools, and child advocacy centers.

Snell is a frequent contributor to Reason magazine, School Reform News and Privatization Watch. Her writing has also appeared in Education Week, Edutopia, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications.

Ms. Snell is also an advisory board member to the National Quality Improvement Center for the Children's Bureau; is on the charter school accreditation team for the American Academy for Liberal Education; and serves as a board member for the California Virtual Academy.

Before joining Reason Foundation, Snell taught public speaking and argumentation courses at California State University, Fullerton. She earned a Master of Arts in communication from California State University, Fullerton.