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COLUMN

Happytown

Vouchers are like depression gift certificates, city elections are like moving goalposts and gas prices are too damn high for Brian Feldman.

Photo: , License: N/A, Created: 2011:06:30 14:02:41


With all the acrimonious chatter about teachers, teachers’ unions and whether Florida’s moth-eaten cross-stitch of a public education system is indeed worth its weight in dumb children, it’s easy to get lost in the political back-and-forth and forget that, as of now in Florida, ABC is just about as easy as 123 – assuming those numerical digits come with dollar signs attached. We’re going to voucher our way to success! Wait, do public schools even matter anymore?

Not according to Gov. Rick Scott, who descended from a dark mountain of “I don’t care” on June 27 to peddle his message of kids-as-coins to parents lulled into the belief that their spawn deserve special attention from money-hungry strangers. The visit to a Winter Garden charter school came not suspiciously on the same day the Orlando Sentinel offered the governor a well of ink to celebrate the signing of five education-oriented bills intended to diversify (and thereby confuse) Florida’s already threadbare education system. 

“With these pieces of legislation, we open doors of opportunity for students with disabilities, create stronger charter and virtual schools, and strengthen parents’ right to choose the best education for their children,” he scribbled as sweat dripped to the page from his maniacally bald head.

In other words, less regulation and more business involvement makes Jack a smart boy. Well, it turns out that at least one component of Scott’s twisted primary school thrill ride may not be all it’s cracked up to be. At issue is the expansion of the McKay Scholarship Program (named after a former Republican state senator who had a hard time finding the proper education for his daughter with learning disabilities in the mid-’90s) to include even more students, potentially 51,000 more than the 21,000 it already “assists.” As a scathing June 23 report in the Miami New Times points out, the program is “like a perverse science experiment, using disabled school kids as lab rats and funded by nine figures in taxpayer cash: Dole out millions to anybody calling himself an educator. Don’t regulate curriculum or even visit campuses to see where the money is going.” Uh-oh.

Of course, that’s just in Miami, right? Well, no. It turns out that former middle school basketball coach Julius Brown, who received more than $2 million in voucher money from the state’s Department of Education between 2006 and 2010 (plus $236,000 in tax credits) for his somehow mobile enterprise, the South Florida Preparatory Christian Academy – “200 students were crammed into ever-changing school locations, including a dingy strip mall space above a liquor store and down the hall from an Asian massage parlor,” reports the New Times – has started himself a new school after a spate of complaints and litigation. Welcome to Sunrise Prep, an empty building at 1200 W. Colonial “Blvd.” (sic), with a website that promises that it “puts God first in all that it does.” It should be noted that Brown was fond of paddling his students in South Florida, just like God, and is about to face a wrongful death lawsuit for a bus accident involving students. Anyway, Sunrise Prep claims to be enrolling for classes starting this August for a small annual tuition of nearly $9,000 per student. Surely Rick Scott will be glad to pick up your tab. Think about the future!

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