IS JASON FISCHER A WOLF AT THE DOOR?

October 8, 2014
by
1 min read

Duval County School Board member Jason Fischer is a nice young man. But in politics,
I’ve learned, it’s the nice young men you have to watch. His most recent actions reveal that he’s a foot soldier in the war on public education — for the wrong side. And his bread may be getting buttered by lieutenants in the Jeb Bush-brand school-privatization movement — the same ones affiliated with his employer, Uretek Holdings.

Fischer’s recent activities put him squarely in the camp that has been systematically destroying Florida’s public schools for more than a decade.

Fischer has come out strongly against the lawsuit filed by the Florida School Boards
Association, which questions the constitutionality of Florida’s private school voucher program. He not only published a guest editorial in the Times-Union, but asked his fellow public school board members to pass a resolution condemning the suit against private school funding.

By way of background, voucher funding now drains state coffers by more than $300 million every year. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is on record stating that privatization — voucher schools, charter schools, etc. — could siphon away up to $70 million from Duval County alone next year.

The FSBA’s lawsuit — backed by the FEA, the NAACP, the Florida PTA, the League of Women Voters and other education advocates — is asking a Leon County judge to declare the tax credit voucher program unconstitutional on two grounds. Plaintiffs say that by permitting corporations to pay their taxes to Step Up for Students instead of to the Florida treasury, the program creates a separate, shadow school system. The Florida Constitution, however, calls for a single “high-quality,” “uniform” public school system. The document also forbids aid to religious institutions, and the majority of schools funded by Step Up are private, religious schools.

The response to the lawsuit from voucher supporters is, essentially, “You’re picking on poor kids who need to have ‘choice,’ you big meanies.”

About 70,000 low-income children use the program statewide. This year, however, the Legislature expanded voucher eligibility to include middle-income children, and did it in the most underhanded way imaginable. After prior efforts to pass it failed due to citizen outrage, lawmakers tacked the expansion — in the form of a 141-page “amendment” — onto a tangentially related bill at the last possible minute.

On Sept. 24, a judge dismissed a separate lawsuit regarding the Trojan horse procedure by which the voucher scheme was passed. The substantive FSBA lawsuit, challenging the very existence of the voucher program, remains ongoing.

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