What about traditional public schools? State teacher’s union fights back over voucher programs

high school classroom
High school classroom. Photo via pixabay.

With the governor and Republican-led Legislature pushing to expand state voucher programs for kids to attend private schools, the Florida Education Association is fighting back.

The statewide teacher’s union has launched what’s called a “Fund Our Future” broadcast and digital ad campaign to promote public education and neighborhood schools, saying traditional public schools face obstacles including low pay for teachers and teacher shortages.

The union said it launched a six-figure TV and digital advertising buy earlier this week, extending through March 11 as the spring legislative session gets underway.

The ads will air in Orlando, Tallahassee and Tampa, according to a news release, with digital versions across the state through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Union officials and educators alike have long been concerned about Florida’s public teacher salaries, which rank near the bottom of the 50 states. Meanwhile, charter schools – public schools run operated by private groups – have proliferated over the decades.

And voucher programs that use pubic dollars for private school “scholarships” have been blossoming.

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently announced his “Florida Equal Opportunity Scholarship Program,” and key Republican senators followed suit, proposing their own voucher program called the “Family Empowerment Scholarship.”

Both of those programs would use the same funds that go into traditional public schools, sparking opposition from Democratic lawmakers as well as the teacher’s union and educators.

FEA President Fedrick Ingram said in a statement that the state needs to invest in the future of Florida’s traditional public schools.

He said: “Funding our future means investing in all of the elements that are crucial to providing opportunity to our students. Students can be successful with smaller classes; a safe learning environment; music, art and after-school programs; and a focus on their real learning, not just a test score. Our public schools need to be funded so students can have a fair shot at success, and educators can teach with dignity. We must do better, and Tallahassee has to help.”

 

 

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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