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Florida Gov.-Elect Rick Scott Considers Dramatically Expanding School Vouchers


Lawmakers in Florida are considering significant free-market reforms to the education system, according to reports, which could influence education reforms nationwide.

On Thursday, Florida's Republican Gov.-elect Rick Scott suggested significantly expanding the state voucher system, the St. Petersburg Times reports, to grant every student an "education savings account." He said he's working with lawmakers to consider a plan to allocate a portion of state's per-student education funding into the savings accounts, letting parents use the money for any school of their choice, public or private.

"The parent should figure out where the dollars for that student are spent," Scott told the Times. "If they want to spend it on, you know, whatever education system they believe in, whether it's this public school or that public school or this private school or that private school, that's what ought to happen.

The Times called it "one of the most radical education ideas that it -- or arguably any state -- has ever considered."

Florida already has two voucher systems in place, one for disabled students and one for low-income students. However, the Florida Supreme Court struck down an earlier attempt at a broader voucher program.

Scott said his education transition team, which is slated to issue recommendations in the coming weeks, values the "follow-the-dollars" concept.

Meanwhile, Patricia Levesque of the Foundation for Florida's Future, a school reform group founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush, this week proposed a new teacher evaluation system to the state Senate Education Committee, the Florida Independent reports. The system would reportedly place significant emphasis on student performance and make it easier to fire teachers.

Also this week, the Florida Independent reports, Florida lawmakers watched the education documentary "Waiting for Superman," which promotes the ideas of school choice and teacher accountability. The film features former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who now serves on Scott's education transition team.

Rhee became a controversial figure in Washington after butting heads with teachers unions, forcing out hundreds of teachers, and school employees and closing dozens of failing schools. She resigned after Washington's mayoral election last month.

Arne Duncan, President Obama's education secretary, has called Rhee a "pivotal leader in the school reform movement" and has said Washington, D.C.'s revamped teacher evaluations, which puts strong emphasis on student performance, could become a national model.

The Obama administration has already introduced some sweeping education reforms including its Race to the Top initiative.

Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.
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