Florida’s push for education gains should be conducted in the classroom, not the courtroom. A Leon County judge’s sweeping decision this week to protect education options for more than 70,000 students is an historic moment. It is critical that we work together and focus on helping students and teachers by strengthening scholarship and school options for students in need.
For most Floridians, our focus on education is on our children today: What can we do to prepare them for success in college, career and life.
Our students are better prepared for success than a generation ago, due in large part to increases in learning by minorities and low-income Floridians that had sadly been left behind.
Part of that success is based on more options. With publicly-funded charter schools and more private school choices for low-income Floridians to find programs that fit their needs, our education leaders have done a great job making the Sunshine State a national leader in providing true education choice for all Floridians regardless of their income or ZIP Code.
Unfortunately, a few people want to continue fighting this progress for their own short-sighted gains. This costly lawsuit filed by the teachers’ union was tossed by Leon Circuit Judge George Reynolds on May 24. In a well-written opinion, Reynolds said that the teachers’ union did not show legal reason for their claims that they were harmed by the scholarship program that allows low-income Floridians to choose a private school option.
The teachers’ union, sadly, may drag this issue out with a legal appeal. The result: Money wasted on frivolous lawsuits that take time and attention away from helping children.
Ending this scholarship program would not only damage the lives and future of nearly 80,000 students and families, but it would also cost the state more than $2.6 billion just to build new schools to handle the ejected students. That doesn’t even consider the cost difference of $111million in additional state funding for those students whose private schools currently receive only 80 percent of the per-student funding as public schools.
But we cannot put a price tag on the costs of a child’s lost future. We encourage everyone to quit spending on lawyers and courts and join us by investing in our teachers and children by providing them with the resources and options necessary to pursue their dreams.
(Dominic M. Calabro is President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, the state’s premier independent government watchdog.)