By Anna Vishkaee Eskimani
Last week a massive expansion of Florida’s voucher system was filed in the state legislature. The proposal, PCB FTSC 14-02, allows sales tax revenue to be sent to private scholarship organizations. This proposal would significantly expand the number of students who would be eligible to receive vouchers under the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program to attend private schools, thus taking away funding from our public schools.
Florida’s constitution does not require high quality private schools—it requires high quality public schools. And in 2013 alone, $207 million was allocated to private schools via the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Private schools who benefit from these funds are exempt from many of the standards that public schools are required to meet, including FCAT testing and meeting education curricula recommendations established by the state.
Instead of diverting funding towards private schools, the Florida Legislature should be more focused on supporting our public schools. I liken it to breaking good dishes; our public education system are the good dishes in the sink. It’s not perfect, and still need to be washed and dried. But instead of grabbing the sponge and soap, we throw the dishes on the ground—purposefully breaking good dishes.
That’s exactly what the Florida legislature is doing, and they’ve been doing it for years now. It’s self-sabotaging in a way. They’re looking to break public education so they can point fingers at its demise, thus giving private school more credibility, and more funding. It’s heartbreaking to think that stuck in the middle of all of this is our students, and Florida’s future.
2014 is going to be a contentious year for education in Florida. Let’s hope our legislators remember that behind all of the politics, are people—teachers, students, parents, who each are relying on a strong education system that supports school choice in an equitable way, not a bias one.
Now a graduate student at UCF pursuing master’s degrees in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management, Anna works full-time at Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando as their External Affairs Manager. She continues to be involved with many advocacy groups, including United Global Outreach through her work in the community of Bithlo. She is also a board member of several organizations, including the Orange County League of Women Voters, Orange County Democratic Executive Committee, and the UCF Women’s Studies Advisory Council. A lifelong feminist, Anna is excited to find even more ways to empower others and give back to her community.