Florida Citizens Unite to Warn Against School Vouchers
Miami, FL — A newly formed Florida citizens committee, devoted to educating the public about the true impact of school vouchers, yesterday launched a new public information campaign warning that vouchers will do irreparable harm to Florida’s public schools.
As this hotly contested issue nears a court hearing in Tallahassee later this month, the new Citizens Committee for Public Information on Vouchers — headed by U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, NAACP of Florida President Adora Obi Nwese, Citizens Coalition for Public Schools President Betty Noe and others — said it has joined together in order to bring accurate information to the public about a debate that has, up to now, been characterized by misinformation and confusion.
“We feel there is much misinformation out there about the voucher program and we want to get the facts out,” Co-Chair Betty Noe told the Miami Herald.
The group launched its campaign yesterday with advertisements in the Miami Herald, the Tallahassee Democrat and other newspapers in the state, including those with predominantly Hispanic and African American readerships.
“What people don’t know is that there’s a hidden ‘ouch’ in every voucher scheme,” said Adora Obi Nwese, President of the NAACP of Florida and member of the Citizens Committee. “Our advertising campaign is designed to unveil the ‘ouch’ in Gov. Bush’s voucher plan and give parents all of the facts so they can make the most informed decisions.”
The Committee also established an 800 number (1-877-901-OUCH) and a website (www.stopvouchers.org) to give Floridians access to straightforward facts about school vouchers. The Committee told the Herald that it is urging interested parents and taxpayers to call the toll free hotline for more information about the issue and about how they can join the Committee.
According to the paper, under the state’s education reform plan, students at schools that are chronically failing – rated F two years within a four-year period for having low test scores – are eligible for private school tuition vouchers. Last year, two schools in Escambia County were considered chronically failing.
Although proponents suggest widespread support for vouchers, a study released in November by Public Agenda, a non-partisan, not-for-profit group, concluded that most of the public has only vague notions about how they work and what impact they will have on local communities and schools.
According to the report, On Thin Ice, How Advocates and Opponents Could Misread the Public’s Views on Vouchers and Charter Schools, “Most Americans know very little about vouchers…Even parents in areas with school choice policies in place are surprisingly unaware of the pros and cons of this debate.”
There are currently only three publicly funded voucher programs operating in the United States today, and they serve only a tiny fraction of the nation’s children. Aside from Florida, two cities, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (http://archive.aclu.org/features/f090198c.html) and Cleveland, Ohio (http://archive.aclu.org/news/1999/w072199a.html) adopted voucher programs in 1991 and 1995, respectively. All three voucher programs have been challenged on state and federal constitutional grounds, and are currently under litigation.
Voucher laws in several other states were invalidated by the courts before they were even implemented. These include California, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and Vermont. Nonetheless, according to the New York Times, there are currently more than 25 state legislatures considering some sort of voucher legislation at this time.
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