For Release: April 30, 1999
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 or Project21@nationalcenter.org
Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 applaud state legislators in Florida for enacting the first statewide school voucher plan in the nation. The legislation, which will allow students in substandard public schools to receive state money to attend private and religious schools, opens up new doors to black students seeking better and more challenging educational opportunities.
"Vouchers are the only way educational quality can be improved," said Project 21 member Sharon Hodge. "My children are in private schools to get the kind of quality education they cannot get in the public schools. I think it's about time the government helps people like me - and now those who could not afford it on their own - to get what they want out of the taxes they pay for education."
The voucher plan, which is supported by Governor Jeb Bush (R), would grade schools on student performance. Students attending schools receiving failing grades will be able to use vouchers equaling approximately $4,000 a year to attend private or parochial schools. The money for the vouchers will be taken from the state public education budget. The cities of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Cleveland, Ohio are currently using voucher systems, and public funds are also used for private education in rural areas of Maine and Vermont.
Florida State Senator John McKay (R) says the voucher program will "allow students to escape from failing schools." The Associated Press reports that an estimated 170 of 3,000 Florida public schools may receive failing grades.
Leon Russell, president of the Florida State Conference of Branches of the NAACP, pledges a fight against the voucher plan, saying, "We will go to court and we will fight on every battle front there is. We won't allow this to become law."
Project 21 member Sharon Hodge disagrees with the Florida NAACP's opposition. Hodge notes, "If you look at Milwaukee and Cleveland, both required the support of the African-American community to enact school vouchers. This is an example of what educational choices will be like in the 21st century."
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community
since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398
or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org.