First, I invite you to read this Salon piece, Creationism, at taxpayer expense: Secrets of the GOP’s frightening new school voucher schemes. You can probably guess from the headline alone that the article takes a negative view of vouchers. For example:
“In Florida, from 2006 to 2010, the state carried out a school voucher plan that resembled ‘a perverse science experiment, using disabled school kids as lab rats and funded by nine figures in taxpayer cash,’ according to a report at The Miami New Times website.”
There are links in that story to other recent articles about voucher-accepting private schools across the country teaching creationism in science class. There are more than 160 such cases in Florida alone (see the map here).
So, I’m very nervous when I see this recent news: Fl legislative leaders want to lower college tuition and expand choice and career education.
[Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel,] said they also want to see a “massive expansion” of Florida’s Tax-Credit Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships so families living in poverty can send their children to private schools.
I’ve brought up the subject of Florida taxpayers funding creationism via vouchers before and tried to nudge reporters at a couple of newspapers to look into it. The results were disappointing. Even with the recent revelations of just how many of these schools are teaching religion as science, the response is still a tepid ho-hum.
I don’t see this as a black and white issue, though. Take a look at this positive article: Florida Family ‘Blessed’ to Be Part of Scholarship Program. I’ve had the personal experiences of my child with documented learning disabilities not getting required accommodations in public school. I understand the desire to find the best education possible for your children when it feels like public schools can’t get the job done. But a great reading/writing program or better individualized attention at a private school can’t come at the cost of gross educational misconduct in other areas, such as science education.
So, what do I want to see happen? Much, much stronger oversight of what these private schools that accept vouchers are doing. It’s embarrassing how bad science education appears to be in so many of these schools. And it’s even more embarrassing that no one here in Florida seems to care. Before our state legislature approves a “massive expansion” they need to tighten up regulation.