School Vouchers Reborn in Florida

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 28 2010 1:46 PM

School Vouchers Reborn in Florida

Rick Scott, the health care executive-turned-activist-turned governor of Florida, is going to be one of the most daring politicians of 2011. He won the GOP's nomination with basically zero establishment support, then beat Democratic nominee Alex Sink when the smart money said he'd lose. And now he's phasing out the state corporate income tax, paying for it by cutting the state workforce by 5 percent (it is already one of the smallest, per capita, in the country), and proposing ideas like "education savings accounts."

[P]arents would be allowed to receive funding equal to 85 percent of the "amount the student would have generated in the public school system," presumably in per-pupil funding, to pay for private school costs, private tutoring, private virtual education, prepaid college plans, and other options.

And the remaining 15 percent? Scott's team says it would flow back in the public coffers.

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Opponents of school vouchers had enjoyed a good run in Florida over the past four years, winning at the state Supreme Court in 2006, then getting two voucher amendments struck from the ballot in 2008. Scott's idea has never been tried, and I don't think you can say yet whether the reason the state Supreme Court gave for the 2006 and 2008 decisions -- that children have a right to go to public school -- will apply to this.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.