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Romano: An education battle worth having in Florida

Romano: An education battle worth having in Florida

  • The enemy is those who see public education as a “monopoly.”
  • In Florida, the voucher program is not the enemy.
  • So maybe supporters of public education should take this loss as a positive.
  • No, I don’t think it’s over the top to say public education could be in trouble.
  • The lawsuit was not driven because the voucher program is a bad idea.

Good morning, teachers.Got a little bad news. You flunked.And there will be no grading on the curve. No makeup work. No extra credit. The state Supreme Court did not even bother with constructive criticism; the justices simply tossed your work in the trash.

@TB_Times: Romano: An education battle worth having in Florida

Good morning, teachers.

Got a little bad news. You flunked.

And there will be no grading on the curve. No makeup work. No extra credit. The state Supreme Court did not even bother with constructive criticism; the justices simply tossed your work in the trash.

To be fair, this isn’t completely your fault. Your union bungled this one. The lawsuit challenging the state’s de facto voucher program was a loser before the writ hit the fan.

And that fate had nothing to do with legal arguments. This one was going to stink no matter what the outcome. What was the union going to do if it won? Celebrate the possibility of kicking 98,000 low-income students out of their private schools?

The truth is, this was just a misguided sideshow.

The lawsuit was not driven because the voucher program is a bad idea. It’s not. The lawsuit was driven by the fear that the program is just an early volley in a plot to privatize education.

And that fear is very real.

But instead of attacking the politicians driving this train, the lawsuit went after a program that has served children for a decade. In that sense, it would be like Congress repealing the Affordable Care Act without any answer for the millions who have come to depend on the health insurance it provides.

“Too often we lose the nuance in this debate because the animus is so strong on both sides,” said Jon East, vice president for Step Up For Students, which facilitates the voucher program. “What we should all be working to improve is how we integrate all these ideas in the best way possible.”

So maybe supporters of public education should take this loss as a positive.

For the enemy is not the little kid going to a Christian school on a scholarship circuitously paid for with tax dollars. The enemy is not the parent grateful for any program that can get his child out of a failing public school and into a safer and more academically vigorous environment.

The enemy is those who see public education as a “monopoly.” A “dead end.” A “closed system.” The enemy is those who feel public education will never get better because the government “really sucks.”

And I didn’t make up any of those descriptions. They are the words of proposed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

So, no, I don’t think it’s over the top to say public education could be in trouble.

DeVos has spent much of her adult life pushing for charter schools and vouchers and other alternative forms of education. And there’s not a thing wrong with that. The problem is she has also spent a good deal of time attacking public education. And now she is potentially in position to inflict serious harm.

During her Senate confirmation hearings Tuesday, DeVos repeatedly refused to answer when asked if she would insist on equal accountability for any school receiving taxpayer dollars.

And that’s what teachers should be fighting.

That’s what parents should be fighting.

That’s what taxpayers should be fighting.

In Florida, the voucher program is not the enemy. The enemy is state legislators who tie the hands of public school boards, administrators and teachers, and then shout about them not being innovative.

You think competition makes for better schools?

Fine, just make it a fair fight.

Don’t hinder public schools with ridiculous and onerous edicts from Tallahassee. Treat all taxpayer-supported schools with the same level of accountability, and then let the market decide.

That’s a fight worth having.

Romano: An education battle worth having in Florida

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