Wednesday, October 16, 2002

School Voucher Growth


The number of students in Milwaukee's controversial voucher program reached 11,750 this year, continuing a trend of slow but steady growth. The program grew by 868 students over last school year.

Six private schools joined the program this year and six schools left, keeping the total number constant at 103.


Via Children First America

Choice as a Florida School District.

Florida is among the leading states in promoting school choice, with A+ Scholarships for children in failing schools, McKay Scholarships for children with disabilities, and with tax credit scholarships for low-income children. Choice opponents often claim that choice programs represent some sort of plot to help pay the costs for wealthy and/or easy-to-educate children to attend private schools.

In Florida, the number of students taking advantage of vouchers to escape failing schools jumped more than twelve-fold from last year. Also, an estimated 9,000 special education students - twice last year's total - have enrolled in school using McKay Scholarships. Perhaps most impressively, about 20,000 students have applied for scholarships provided through Florida's new corporate tax credit program.

If you combine these three programs however, you find that at least 42.5% of choice children have disabilities compared to a statewide average of 14.9%, and a minimum of 55% of the 23,500 choice kids are eligible for the federal free/reduced lunch program, compared to a statewide average of 36%. (The actual free/reduced lunch figure is higher than 55%, but income statistics are not readily available for McKay or A+ Scholarship beneficiaries).

Considered in whole, school choice kids are already a larger group than 45 of Florida's 67 school districts. Including the over 50,000 children attending the 232 Florida charter schools, the "school choice district" is the larger than all but five of Florida's government school districts, and growing fast. In a state that faces overcrowding problems in government schools and where it costs $30,000 per seat in construction costs for new schools -- choice works for parents, students and taxpayers.

Some Florida candidates have threatened to abolish Florida choice programs, but one cannot help but wonder where the state will find well over two billion dollars it will take to build spaces for these children in the public school system (which they would prefer not to attend).


And in Cleveland, applications for state-financed vouchers increased by 29 percent - from 2,100 last year to 2,700 this year. The month of July showed a particularly sharp increase - from 163 in 2001 to 648 this year

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