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1999 Opportunity Scholarship Program


Historic Capitol

on 9 January 2013

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Transcript of 1999 Opportunity Scholarship Program

The Opportunity Scholarship program was one of
the new school voucher program ideas put forth nationwide. School voucher programs were a new public policy idea to address failing schools and poor test scores. Vouchers allowed students in failing public schools to switch to different
schools. The state government would
pay for the cost of switching. The Cross Florida Barge Canal The Equal Rights Amendment Opportunity Scholarship Program You get to decide if Florida should build a man-made waterway across the state. It will connect the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. This canal would allow barges to move goods and
people more quickly
and safely. 1961 1982 1999 You get to decide if Florida should ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA would guarantee men and women equal rights. Thirty-five states have already ratified the amendment. If Florida does too,
it would set the stage for it to
be added to the U.S.
Constitution. You get to decide if Florida should provide "Opportunity Scholarships" to students in failing public schools. These scholarships would provide funds for these students
to go to a better public school or
private school. This program is
one part of former Governor
Jeb Bush's A+ Education
Plan. The Education Plan This bill would
change that... Choose the proposed legislation YOU would like to learn about and debate! The A+ Education Plan was a proposed set of laws and policies that focused on school assessment and accountability to improve public schools in Florida. The most controversial part
of the A+ Education Plan is a bill called the "Opportunity Scholarship Program." The money used for the school vouchers would come out of the state public education budget. If Florida passed this bill, it would be the first state in the nation to adopt a statewide school voucher program. Students had to be eligible to receive this "opportunity scholarship." To be eligible, their public school had to be rated as failing for two
years out of four. At this time, only four schools
in Florida are rated as failing. Roughly 170 schools are close to failing, however, and standards
will be raised next year... If eligible, parents could request
a scholarship for their child.
It would be worth about $4,000. Parents could give the scholarship to a better public school or private school, including
religious schools. Private schools
could choose to accept vouchers. If they did, they would have to accept the voucher as full tuition for these students. OPPORTUNITY

How would this program raise the quality of public education for K-12 schools in the state? Rep. Pro This program would improve public education for all of Florida's schoolchildren. This is because under this plan, schools would compete to keep their kids and their funding. Rep. Con This program would ruin the public school system in Florida. It would take money from failing public schools — schools that really
need the money — and give
that money to private
schools. Rep. Pro At this time, half of our 4th grade students can't read at grade level. This program would offer students in failing schools a chance to receive a better education, now! Rep. Con Public schools have to take FCAT tests, but private schools don't have to take the same tests. So, how do
we know if these students are
even receiving a better
education without a
uniform way to
measure it? Rep. Pro If failing schools get to keep
their students and funding,
what will motivate them
to improve? Rep. Con How can failing schools ever
improve if they are losing
both their money as well as
their best students to
private schools? WHAT
Does this law conflict with the separation of church and state? Rep. Pro If the law's purpose is to aid the common good, and the help to religious organizations is only incidental, the
courts have ruled that laws like
these are constitutional. To me,
this law fits that description. Rep. Con The U.S. Constitution says that there must
be a division between church and state.
But under this program the state government will be giving tax dollars
to religious organizations. The way
I see it, that makes this bill
unconstitutional! Rep. Pro Also, the "scholarships" do not go directly
to the schools. They go to the parents,
who sign them over to the school that
the parents choose to send their child to.
The choice is made by the parents,
not the government, so there
is no constitutional
conflict. Rep. Pro Well, it's not exactly the same as Milwaukee's program, but the bill does
have similar language. The bill states that the school cannot make a student "profess
a specific ideological belief, to pray or to worship." This will make sure a student
is not forced to accept a religion that
he or she doesn't believe just to
get a good education. Rep. Con A different voucher program, run by the City of Milwaukee in Wisconsin, has an "opt-out" clause written in the law. It states that no school that accepts a voucher can make a student participate in any religious
activity or class there. But the law
here in Florida doesn't even
have that guarantee. WHAT
THINK? Rep. Con Well, this law has to follow the State Constitution, too. That constitution goes even further than the U.S. Constitution.
It clearly says that money from the
public treasury cannot go to religious organizations, directly or indirectly.
It seems to me that this law will
violate that part of the State
Constitution. HOLD UP! I thought the judicial branch is the one who decides if a law is constitutional. Well, voting for an unconstitutional law would make you look silly...or worse!
(If you're a legislator, you ought to know your Constitution, right??!!) Why is this question important for a legislator to consider? Plus, it could waste taxpayer money. So if you're a legislator, you shouldn’t make the courts decide something a student would know is unconstitutional! Now that we got that straightened out, let's see what our Representatives think about the question... First a little background information... Public policy is a method of action taken by the government. Its purpose is to address an issue of public concern. The A+ Education Plan was wide-ranging. It covered issues like improving teacher training programs and school safety. It also included several bills that had to be passed by the State Legislature. That means over 150,000 students could be eligible for vouchers next year! This is the
bill you'll be considering! All of the bill's committees
approved the program. So, the
day for the floor vote is almost here! For a taste of what's being said in the media, click the blue box below... But, sometimes the issue isn't clear one way or the other. In these cases, legislators have to make the best decision they can. If the law is passed, the courts have the
final say on whether it's constitutional. During the 1998 election campaign, Jeb Bush mentioned this plan in most of his campaign speeches. His opponent, Buddy MacKay, the Lt. Governor at that time, was very much against it. They debated the issue several times. He argued that his election showed that Floridians were also behind this
new plan for schools. Gov. Bush strongly pushed the Legislature to pass all parts of his A+ Education Plan in his first State of the State address. Bush won the election and became Florida's Governor in January 1999. A+ The State of the State address is a speech made once every year
by the Governor to the State Legislature. In the speech, the Governor explains the problems the State is facing. The Governor also outlines his/her vision for tackling those issues and asks the Legislature to pass the laws he or she is proposing. The President of the United States gives a similar speech to Congress called the "State of the Union." Mayors of many large cities also often give a "State of the City" address. The plan was written and
advocated by Gov. Jeb Bush and
Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan. Definition Definition How do legislators decide if this program will be good for Florida? Legislators and their staff research the issue for themselves. They also get input from their constituents by email, phone calls, letters, and meetings. Lastly, legislators debate each other in committee meetings and on the floor of the chamber. In the debates, each legislator argues why the law would be wise or unwise for the state. They hope their argument will sway undecided legislators and explain their vote to their constituents. Now for some specifics... Additionally, legislators are usually members of a
political party. Each party takes a stand one way
or the other way on an issue. The party leadership often pushes members to vote with the party. Legislators don't have to follow their party's advice.
But they often do so unless they really believe their
party is on the wrong side of the issue. Definition Political parties are organizations with a shared vision for how a good government should work. A party tries to influence legislation and government action. They do this by getting their members elected to political office. In the United States, the two major political parties are the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The bill is making its way through the Transforming Florida Schools Committee and the Education Appropriations Committee. Both committees need to approve the bill for it to reach the floor. Pay close attention to the debate. Then, consider your own opinion now that you are well-informed about the proposed bill! Public school districts are run at the county level. Within each county, different neighborhoods are zoned
for different public schools. That means families who live
in one part of town and want
to attend public school have to
attend the school they are
zoned for. Students usually are
not allowed to switch schools. How do Public Schools operate in Florida? Rep. Pro Consider the following questions and the debate that follows between Representative Pro and Representative Con. These are some of the main arguments made for and against the bill. Rep. Con Now that you've heard some arguments on how the bill will affect the quality of public education... Now that you've heard some arguments on whether the bill is constitutional... Once the bill makes it to calendar for the floor for debate, you'll have a chance to debate this bill on the floor of the state House of Representatives!
That’s where you can tell everyone why you do or do not support the legislation for creating the Opportunity Scholarship program!
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