All are due for a tune-up in the spring legislative session, as lawmakers look to revise the Common Core academic standards, the methods for assessing both schools and students, and doling out merit pay bonuses to teachers.
But one potentially massive shock to the system could be coming on the school-choice front: not the expansion of
Weatherford wants to expand
Weatherford wants to let companies claim tax credits on their insurance premiums and sales taxes, and to create partial scholarships for families whose rising income renders them ineligible for the program after their children have already been in it.
Weatherford wants no cap on these new streams, which theoretically could lead to a major expansion, although he says there is only a "finite demand" for the vouchers. "There's not a million kids that are going to participate in the program," he said.
But his legislative counterpart,
Back in 2008, Gaetz was a newbie pushing a bill expanding the corporate tax credit program, which is run by
His House partner, Rep.
This year, when Weatherford approached him about another voucher expansion, Gaetz reminded him he "left something on the table."
So, the voucher expansion this year will have to contain assessments for private school voucher students.
That would be a dramatic swing in
Some people support school choice because they believe, without clear evidence, that it will force public schools to shape up via competition.
The other argument is that students trapped in poverty and failing schools never get a chance in life. And vouchers are an avenue for them to break out of life's less fortunate cycles. Here, the jury is still out. And assessing student performance would go a long way to putting these experiments to a real test.
Nobody believes that more than Gaetz, a former school superintendent.
"If our goal here is to try and open pathways in education out of poverty and to a better life for these kids, then we have to measure whether or not the educational choices are really improving performance," he says. "Are they choice for the sake of choice? And that may be a valuable commodity. But is educational choice leading to educational advancement? It's important to know that as a matter of public policy."
And Gaetz says he doesn't intend to get rolled again.
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