Leon Co. public school officials speak out against $16 million allocated to private schools

Florida school voucher expansion
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 6:31 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2022 at 6:33 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Leon Co. public school officials are speaking out against millions of dollars being funneled into private schools.

A report released Tuesday estimate Leon County will spend more than $16 million in public money to fund school vouchers this year.

Superintendent Rocky Hanna says he’s been concerned about this issue for years.

“At the end of the day, it’s math,” Hanna said at a virtual press conference Tuesday. “It’s about resources. And there’s only so much money that we have to spend on education.”

Hanna said in 2019, about $4 million in public money was going toward private schools in Leon County.

“That number grew from $4 million to $13 million, and this year 16 million dollars,” Hanna said.

That $16 million estimate for this year comes from a new report by the Florida Policy Institute.

It amounts to nearly 9% of state funding for Leon County Schools.

“Florida has done an abysmal job of funding its public schools,” Leon Classroom Teachers Association President Scott Mazur said.

Mazur says this is money that public schools desperately need.

“We want to make sure that our public schools, the ones that are the foundation of our community, are there for those folks that need that resource,” he said.

But the power to allocate funding for private school vouchers rests with the legislature and the Governor -- who last year expanded Florida’s voucher system, saying vouchers allow low-income students to access high quality education and give Florida students the best chance for success.

In a statement to WCTV, a representative with Step Up For Students, a Florida private school scholarship funding organization, said:

“The report grossly distorts how the state funds education choice scholarships. The school districts never receive the money so it can’t be redirected. It’s just an accounting entry used by the state. Scholarship students no more divert funds from districts than students who pay out of pocket for private schools do.”

We have reached out to the Governor’s office and the Florida Department of Education for comment on this issue but have not yet heard back.