Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

In the United States, privatization in the field of education is increasingly accepted. Florida, for example, is at the forefront of school vouchers, these education vouchers which allow parents to enroll their children in private education using public money.

In Florida, public funds help private education

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Private schools continue to gain ground in Florida compared to public schools, thanks to vouchers.< /p>

  • Frédéric Arnould (View profile)Frédéric Arnould

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On this Tuesday afternoon, there are a few dozen students taking classes at the Deeper Roots school, in the suburbs of Orlando, Florida. In a rather small room, there are three different age groups, separated by simple removable walls. There is a joyful cacophony of questions from teachers and reactions from students.

In one of these small classes is teacher Angela Kennedy, who also founded the school. I started with just two students a few years ago, and today we have an average of 80 to 90 children per year, she explains proudly.

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Educator Angela Kennedy is also the founder of the Deeper Roots school.

The success is such that his school, welcoming children from 3 to 14 years old, is overflowing. Outside, five mobile classes, installed in the parking lot, allow a few dozen high school students to follow their lessons.

Registration cost for each student: US$8,500 per year. But in reality, it only costs parents a few hundred dollars, thanks to the state of Florida's school vouchers program.

Ron Matus, director of research and special projects at Step Up for Students, which manages Florida's scholarship and voucher program, calculated the number of students who switched from the public to the private system: 360 000!

LoadingPaid to study, but not obliged to go to construction sites afterwards

ELSE INFO: Paid to study, but no need to go to construction sites afterwards

From now on, every family has the right to choose, he adds. There are 3.4 million school-age children in Florida, so all of these children are eligible for education choice.

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Ron Matus, director of research and special projects at Step up for Students which manages the Florida scholarship and voucher program.

Today T oday, approximately 11 percent of Florida students have left public education programs. Everyone leaves with their portion of public funding, which is paid to the private sector.

Ron Matus is quick to put the losses for the public system into perspective. Yes, public school has less money because it has fewer students, but it also has fewer students to teach.

What does Mr. Matus say to those who say that these scholarships are a drain on money from public schools? In fact, the amount of funding per student in public schools has increased, even accounting for inflation, over the past 25 years.

Like every morning, Maria Echevarria drops off her son Eddie, 11, at St. Charles Borromeo School in Orlando. She chose private school, even though she herself came from public school. Unfortunately, the public system has always been collapsing. It's not because of the quality of the teachers, the teacher told the public.

It is the current culture and society that explains the decline of the education system and because of this, the safety of public schools is also declining. I therefore prefer that he benefits from a safe environment.

A quote from Marie Echevarria, a public school teacher who enrolled her son in the private sector

There is in fact a security service which monitors the comings and goings of parents who participate in the daily procession of cars of all sizes which drop off students near the school.

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Maria Echevarria is happy to have been able to enroll her son in a private school thanks to education vouchers from her state.

A single mother and public school teacher, she had to work two or three part-time jobs to be able to send her son to a private school. When she finally got a scholarship for her son, she was able to spend more time with him and take care of his parents, who live with her in her house.

The success of education vouchers is impressive in Florida where, under Governor Ron DeSantis, we have seen exponential growth in the program in favor of the private sector. Twelve years ago, only 40,000 students participated. Last year, that number jumped to 250,000 and this year, nearly US$3 billion was transferred from the public to the private sector.

Ron Matus believes, however, that this fierce competition between the private and the public is beneficial. Thanks to education vouchers, says the director of research and special projects at Step Up for Students, public education has also improved.

But this craze for more school choices has not only produced good results.

For parents like Leslie Kirschenbaum, the mother of two children with special needs (one with autism, the other with dyslexia), the voucher program was a good choice, but Step Up for Students seems overwhelmed by requests. Like others, she must therefore take out loans in order to pay the children's school fees, while waiting for scholarships.

The situation is becoming a little frustrating for Ms. Kirschenbaum, because she wonders if she should send her children back to public school, which provides less support for students with special needs, because she doesn't ;does not have the means to pay, for the moment, private school fees.

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Leslie Kirschenbaum says Step Up for Students is being overwhelmed by the success of Florida's vouchers.

For her part, Kelly Mawhinney, who offers tutoring more than 150 students through the scholarship and education voucher program, struggling to get reimbursed by Step Up for Students.

Since this year, the program is more complicated in terms of reimbursement of fees to parents, explains Mawhinney. She calls to report the problem to Step Up for Students customer service, but each time she gets a different response. She is waiting to receive the US$9,000 to US$14,000 she bills the organization each month.

Ron Matus understands these frustrations. We had some challenges to overcome this year. There was a tsunami of requests and the funding processes were modified, he recalls. That meant we had to do things differently.

Barbara Beasley, whose two children benefit from the scholarship and voucher programs, follows close to the file. She deplores the lack of transparency and control of Step Up for Students which, in fact, has a monopoly on the distribution of the program.

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Barbara Beasley, whose children benefit from tutoring at home, deplores the lack of transparency of the organization which manages the program of scholarships and vouchers in Florida.

I think it's not so much a question of too much and too fast growth, she believes. This is a problem of the capacity of the scholarship funding body and the fact that it cannot be put under credible scrutiny until there is competition.

Indeed, at the moment, adds Barbara Beasley, if the organization Step Up for Students, for example, violates all the laws for which it is responsible, there is nothing the state can do. p>

The formula, however, is catching on, since certain states, such as Arizona, have also adopted the Florida-style education voucher formula. On the other hand, in one year, the cost of the Arizona program, which seems to be exceeded by its success, will amount to almost a billion US dollars, which will lead to a budget deficit of almost 320 million per year. ;next year.

Ron Matus of Step Up for Students agrees that changing the education system takes time and causes upheaval, but adds that some states may be trying too hard of things at the same time.

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Classes at the Deeper Roots private school are full of students aged 3 to 14.

At Deeper Roots School, where classes are full, Angela Kennedy hopes to soon find larger premises to cope with the ever-increasing demand.

Because she firmly believes that more and more Floridians will choose private schools thanks to the education voucher system.

If the child succeeds Well, I don't see what the problem is, notes the teacher. If the end goal is for children to succeed, does it really matter where they studied? It doesn't matter. You have to give them what they need to succeed, that's my philosophy, period.

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