Erik Fresen’s Claim of a “Pent-Up Demand” for Florida Vouchers Cannot Be Verified

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Florida Public Employees

Erik_Fresen_Florida_public_EmployeesMarch 29, 2014

By  – Scathing Purple Musings

Step Up for Students, the organization which administrates Florida’s voucher program watched Friday’s hearing in the House Appropriations Education Subcommittee and realized that Democrats wanted numbers that Rep. Erik Freseen (R-Miami) couldn’t provide. They must have cringed when Fresen said that there was “pent-up demand” for vouchers. SUFS immediately went to work to get out in front of this. Policy and Communications director Jon East quickly got this in their redefinED blog:

A Florida House committee debate this morning about a new Tax Credit Scholarship bill included some fair questions, obvious skepticism and dueling numbers about how many students want in. One reason for the confusion might be this little-known fact: Step Up For Students, the nonprofit that processes the applications, has stopped keeping waiting lists.

That may sound like an alarming development, but the reason is not what you might think. The people who process applications at Step Up, which publishes this blog, have become so overwhelmed in recent years that they no longer wanted to give low-income families false hope. They concluded that the main reason for the waiting list was mostly for show, and they wanted no part of that.

So when we are asked by lawmakers or reporters or state officials about a waiting list, we try our best to respond by describing the accelerated pace of applications.

So the “accelerated pace of applications” is the excuse for not really having the numbers. Fresen must be cringing this morning, too.

SUFS executives have a habit of advancing dicey numbers. They maintain that voucher schools shouldn’t have to take the same tests as public schools. It’s about choice, or something. And besides, their Norm-Referenced apples show they same thing that FCAT oranges show.

How does SUFS not keep a waiting list? Especially knowing that for-profit charter schools of which they frequently write in support of have been called on their assertions about waiting lists. No wonder Sen. Bill Galvano said that the bill needed better vetting when he pulled his Senate version last week.

Fresen’s filibustering in yesterday’s hearing left egg on his face. House republicans, many who are making political hay with the Obama administration’s sketchy, evasive numbers on Obamacare, ought to be furious this morning with SUFS. But are they?

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