Real News podcast: Pumping tax dollars into private schools

Dr. Sally Butzin is the speaker in a special meeting sponsor by the League of Women Voters Pensacola Bay Area. She is a public education advocate and president of Tallahassee’s LWV.

She will share the findings from a preliminary investigative report on “Step Up for Students”, a scholarship funding organization that enables students to attend private schools using tax payer funds. The Zoom meeting is 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct 21. You can register here.

I interviewed Dr. Butzin yesterday on 1370 WCOA.

“The League of Women Voters is a very strong supporter of public education, which is one of the pillars of our democracy,” she said. “The voucher program that’s been going on, since Jeb Bush was governor, is taking public money and using it for private education without the oversight and the transparency and the accountability that we have in our public schools.”

Step Up for Students is creation of the Florida Legislature and has grown into the 21st largest charity in country.

“We looked into learning more about this organization, what they do and the money that they’re making,” said Butzin. “They are basically operating this entire huge voucher system as a private organization using public funds. We think people need to be aware of what’s happening with their tax dollars. And I can tell you, it’s getting worse this year.”

Step Up has two programs. Butzin explained, “One is called the ‘Tax Credit Scholarship.’ And this is funded by corporations and businesses that can divert their taxes that they owe to the state. Instead of paying taxes to support our government and support our public schools, they can divert these taxes over to Step Up For Students.”

She continued, “This school year, for the first time, they’ve created a new scholarship program called ‘Family Empowerment Scholarships.’ And this is the first time money is coming directly out of our general revenue.”

According to a Florida Department of Education memo, $12.8 million this year has been diverted from Escambia County public school to the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program.

The criteria has changed for the scholarships (vouchers). Initially, they funds only went to low-income families.

“This year, the legislature’s criteria is you qualify for one of these if you have an income of $100,000.,” said Butzin. “We’re talking about not high poverty people; we’re talking about middle income and going up families. Plus, once your child qualifies for one of these vouchers or scholarships, you’re in for the rest of your career.”

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2 thoughts on “Real News podcast: Pumping tax dollars into private schools

  1. This is the epitome of corrupt Florida. Only an idiot would think it’s okay to divert public funds to a private entity with zero oversight. Meanwhile, public schools students will do without, relying mostly on federal funds to operate.

  2. School of Choice= AWESOME! This is a tremendous opportunity for a LOT of kids to go to a specialized school of their parents choice. It works for them and if folks pay taxes… why can’t they choose? Sounds to me like the government just wants to keep more of the peoples money!

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