Representative Barbara Watson opposes Educational Choice Bill for its failing grade
TALLAHASSEE, FL – On April 11, 2014, Representative Barbara Watson voted against the Educational Choice, HB 7167, a measure to expand vouchers.
“This measure erodes the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA),” said Barbara Watson. “It eliminates a set of rights for Exceptional Student Education (ESE) students and limits their access to an appropriate learning environment.”
Public school ESE students will lose a set of rights when they use a voucher to transfer to a private institution including the:
* Right to a free and appropriate public education;
* Right to being educated in a general classroom setting with students who are not disabled, and
* Right to accessible infrastructure in the private school they choose to attend.
Additionally, school districts could lose federal supplemental education funds under IDEA to evaluate children for this voucher program and provide other services because the funds would be cut off when students enroll in for-profit private schools.
“If we eliminate their rights, then who will set the standards and who will grade the services of private institutions to ensure students with disabilities are protected and have access.”
Watson also noted in her opposition to the bill that the mea-sure authorizes a transfer of school district ESE funds to private institutions through the Personal Learning Account Transfer Program, which funds all services for children with disabilities.
“There is a continuous shift of public education dollars to fund private institutions without requiring the minimum standards,” added Watson. “Banks don’t give loans without some stipulations. The Legislature should not fund a voucher program without some protections for children with disabilities.“
The House passed HB 7167 by a margin of 73 to 43.
“The Florida House just flunked the standardized test, and our most vulnerable citizens will be penalized.”