Teacher union analysis: Districts to lose $1 billion over five years over new school voucher program

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Republican lawmakers have stressed that Florida’s public schools could see savings from a new school voucher program that would allow more kids to attend private and religious schools with public dollars.

But the Florida Education Association isn’t seeing it that way at all.

In fact, the statewide teacher’s union projects that Florida’s public school districts will lose nearly $1 billion over the next five years as enrollment grows in the new Family Empowerment Scholarship program approved by the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

While some families in Florida have celebrated the new voucher program, union officials, educators, public school advocates and some taxpayers have not been fans. And it’s likely that a court challenge over the program would lead to the Florida Supreme Court.

The FEA calculated the “diversion” of dollars for the new voucher program, which will be financed by the traditional pot of money used to fund public schools, called the Florida Education Finance Program, or FEFP for short.

The lost revenue for public schools would start at $131-million in 2019-20, but steadily rise each year, as more kids get vouchers to attend private schools. By 2023-24, the total over five years would be $986.4 million.

“This misguided and misappropriated legislation means that school buildings will continue to decay, threatening the health of our students and staff,” said FEA president Fedrick Ingram. “Classes will become even more overcrowded, making it harder for students to learn.  As a result of this drain on school funds, Florida districts will be forced to cut back on music, art, Advanced Placement courses and other essential programs.”

The FEA produced a county-by-county list of school districts and how much they’d lose over the five-year period. You can see it here.

The FEA and other advocacy groups are holding a summit in Orlando this weekend to “explore ways to counter attacks on Florida’s schools.”

The event, called “Bringing Voices Together,” is open and free to the public, and goes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 18. The event is at the Hilton Orlando, 6001 Destination Parkway, Orlando. Advance registration is requested and seats can be reserved at https://feasummit2019.eventbrite.com.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.

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