Jeb Bush engaged in two passions Wednesday. First, he mentored 14-year-old Anthony Pedersen, then at mid-afternoon he announced a plan to expand the voucher program by up to 170,000 students, offering vouchers to kids who have failed the FCAT reading test three years in a row.
"We can expect about six percent of eligible parents to exercise a choice, which is about 10,000 students," says Bush.
While the governor calls the scholarships "as American as apple pie gives people choices,” the basic plan is still embroiled in court fights that could sink the entire voucher system.
A circuit court and an appeals court have both declared the voucher law unconstitutional and the last word will likely come from the Florida Supreme Court.
Rep. Dennis Baxley supports the expansion and says it makes sense to keep pushing the voucher envelope.
"If you keep repeating the same activity, getting the same negative response, then it's time to do something different," he says.
But Florida’s teachers union is scratching its collective head, wondering why Bush didn’t wait for the courts before taking a giant step forward in sending kids to private schools.
Mark Pudlow of the Florida Education Association says, "Privatization is written on the middle line of every check that the state writes. I mean, I think that's basically where they are going on this and they just want to privatize everything, including schools."
Bush says waiting for the courts isn’t part of his job description. He will push the voucher plan full speed ahead.
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