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Public Funding for Private Schools

Post # 169, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary

The Florida Supreme Court Says Using Public Funding for Private Education is a Legislative Issue--Not for the Courts.

Florida education funding today is a contradiction. The Florida Constitution says it [Florida law] is required to make, "adequate provisions for the education of all children residing within its border." Florida spends approximately $10,000 per student which is 46th in the country. Public funding for school advocates, mainly teacher unions, have argued for years that 46th is not "adequate." The 2021 Session of the Florida Legislature and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis say it is. There is the contradiction--one side--essentially Republicans-- saying 46th in funding is adequate. The other side--essentially Democrats and teacher unions-- says it is not. In 2019, the Florida Supreme Court said the issue of funding public education is a legislative matter and ruled the issue is not justiciable [not determined by the courts].

In the meantime, the side saying 46th in public school funding is adequate has passed a budget for public education of $22 Billion for some 2.7 Million students. At the same time, that side funds vouchers for private schools for almost 200,000 students and $1 Billion over 5 years. Republicans are quick to say moving funds from public schools to private charter schools is simply offering resident a choice for their child's education

Critics of vouchers have argued that other than the per unit costs, every dollar taken away from public schools drives up the fixed costs of public education. It is a choice for the potential recipient, but not for those left with the fixed asset funding of education--in other words, the taxpayer. Although a general exception, some promoters of voucher funding have done so at the expense of management, accountability, and integrity. Few of the programs remain self governed.

Voucher advocates have become very creative for their unique beneficiaries, now funding the following specifications:

  • Disabled

  • People of Color

  • Means Tested

  • Family Empowerment

  • Special Needs

  • Savings Account

As state above, the driving force behind voucher funding are conservative Republicans, although many question what is conservative about spending public funds on private needs, with sometimes minimal accountability. Some Republicans are now considering using public dollars for private contractors to fund health care, elderly care, medicare/medicaid, and social service programs, in addition to prisons. The indirect impact on public budget administration is substantial and expected to increase.



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