Friday, March 5, 2010

Private school bailout may continue as public schools face cuts

I thought the unconstitutionality of Florida's school voucher program was settled - but when there's an agenda, I guess nothing ever is.

A Republican bill in the Florida legislature would expand taxpayer-funded handouts to private schools - even while cash-strapped public schools face even more cuts.

This bill would also let corporations pay even more to the private school bailout fund in lieu of paying state taxes like everyone else.

This isn't just an issue of melding corporate and government power. It's also an issue of the state illegally sponsoring religion - in violation of both the First Amendment and the Florida Constitution. But the bill's supporters argue that this doesn't apply because (in the words of the bill's sponsor), "the state never touches the money", as companies pay directly into the fund.

That argument distorts semantics beyond the threshold of the permissible. That's because it's the state that set up the mechanism that lets corporations give to this fund instead of paying taxes.

This also follows a scandal in which 2 private schools that participated in the voucher program were accused of fraud.

Private school bailouts are an issue that highlights the twin legs of militant conservatism perhaps more strongly than any other: It represents both social and economic engineering - to the detriment of the nation's future. Further, it harms the poor by siphoning funding from public schools. So one shouldn't be surprised that the rightist intelligentsia has pushed the idea so hard despite overpowering evidence that it's unconstitutional.

Before anyone accuses me of bias against private schools, I had about equal experience with private schools as I did with public schools. Trust me: I know how the system works.


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