School voucher bill up for debate; press conference today with Florida voucher advocate Doug Tuthill

Rep. Paul Stam’s school voucher bill, HB 944, Opportunity Scholarship Act, will be heard in the House Education Committee tomorrow morning at 10am.

An advance copy of the latest changes to the bill indicates that now $100 million will be siphoned from public schools over the next three years (previously that figure was $90 million over two years), income eligibility requirements have been tightened slightly, and a provision that cost savings created by the voucher program would go back to public schools has been added, but the language is vague.

Kevin Rogers, policy and public affairs director of Action NC, explained in an op-ed in the Fayetteville Observer on Friday that while school vouchers purportedly save the state money, ultimately they open the door for private schools to educate children with fewer dollars. “In a state that already ranks 48th in per-pupil expenditures, don’t our children deserve better than to be educated on the cheap,” said Rogers.BrandonBryanTuthill

In advance of tomorrow’s committee meeting, Floridian voucher advocate Doug Tuthill will be on hand with Reps. Bryan and Brandon today at 3pm in the press conference room of the Legislative Building to discuss the bill.

Tuthill will presumably talk about his experiences as president of Step Up for Students, which runs Florida’s tax credit scholarship program that allows low-income students to use state funds to attend private institutions in the state. The program is one of the largest in the country of its kind.

According to the Palm Beach Post, in 2010 Step Up for Students received 3 percent of the scholarships — almost $7 million dollars– for “management fees.”  Step Up for Students’ 2011 tax Form 990 states that Tuthill personally received $165,995 from the organization for serving as president. Most of the other administrators at Step Up for Students also brought in north of $100k in 2011.

In addition to his responsibilities at Step Up for Students, Tuthill also directs a private school in St. Petersburg by the name of Marcus Garvey Academy, Inc. and is on the Board of Directors for the American Center for School Choice.

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