It turns out that waiting list for Vouchers doesn’t really exist

From the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet, by Valerie Strauss

This belongs in the
you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff category.
The short version:
Florida’s lawmakers are
considering expanding a voucher-like tax credit program because, legislators
keep saying, there is a huge waiting list of families who want to participate.
It turns out that there is no waiting list.
The long version:
The Florida legislature has
been considering legislation that would expand the state’s Tax Credit
Scholarship Program, a voucher-like scheme that allows public money to be used
for private school tuition but wouldn’t require much if anything in the way of accountability from schools that accept vouchers.
(For example, the students wouldn’t have to take the high-stakes standardized
tests required of public school students.)
The Senate bill’s sponsor,
Republican Bill Galvano of Bradenton, wound up pulling the bill after
stories about the lack of accountability began to spread, and he cited the
accountability measures as the reason for his action. He did not mention an
embarrassing video that was uncovered in which Doug Tuthill, the president of
Step Up for Students, which administers the tax credit program, talks about how
much money his organization spends funding political campaigns. The Tampa Bay
Times wrote about the
video in this story
, which said in part:
In the video, Step Up for
Students President Doug Tuthill outlined the
organization’s political strategy. He talked about the role of an affiliated
political committee.
“One of the primary reasons
we’ve been so successful we spend about $1 million every other cycle in local
political races, which in Florida is a lot of money,” Tuthill told a group at
the University of California, Berkeley. “In House races and Senate races, we’re
probably the biggest spender in local races.” 

Tuthill said he and other proponents “make low-income families the face of the

“We put those people in the
face of Democrats and say ‘How can you deny this parent the right to educate
their child in the ways that they need?’ ” he said.
Just when people thought
the expansion of the program was dead in the legislature for the year, Florida
House members found a way to resurrect it by combining it with another reform
bill still alive. What will happen is unclear.
But the larger point is
that the expansion of the program has been pushed by Step Up For Students based
on what it and supportive legislators have said is a very, very long waiting
list of families who want to participate. Rep. Erik Fresen, a Republican from
Miami who was one of the legislators who figured out how to keep the expansion
idea alive, said at a hearing in Tallahassee about the bill that there is a
waiting list of families seeking the tax credits that now stands “at 100,00
students.” During the debate about the legislation, a figure of 34,000 families
on a waiting list has been thrown about, as have other figures.
Specifically citing such
numbers suggests there is an actual waiting list. But, it turns out, there
isn’t. After school activists and reporters asked for details about the waiting
list, Step Up For Students acknowledged that, alas, it doesn’t really keep one.
There aren’t any people on the waiting list because there isn’t a waiting list.
Jon East, of the redefinED
blog, which is published by Step Up For Students, wrote in this
The people who process
applications at Step Up, which publishes this blog, have become so overwhelmed
in recent years that they no longer wanted to give low-income families false
hope. They concluded that the main reason for the waiting list was mostly for
show, and they wanted no part of that.
Mostly for show? The
organization has sought an expansion of the program, and legislators have cited
the waiting list as a reason for funding it.
East continues:
For the current school
year, 2013-14, the cap limit of $286 million has allowed Step Up to serve
59,765 low-income students. But applications were coming in so fast last spring
that the processing team decided to stop taking them on June 28, about as
month-and-a-half before school started. Even so, 94,104 students had already
That number from June is
the origin of the 34,000 “waiting list” that has been asserted many times
during the current debate. In reality, it’s not a waiting list, but it’s a
powerful indication of demand.

Whatever the demand, it remains the case that
public funding has no business being used to pay for private school tuition.
That’s the bottom line.

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