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“All politics is local.” Attributed to Tip O’Neill

“An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight. It is therefore imperative that the nation see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens.” Thomas Jefferson

“The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” Malcolm Forbes
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life; nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.” Isaac Asimov

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Public Education and School Choice Definitions and Information

(With help from League of Women Voters of Orange County Education Committee)

Traditional Public Schools: A system established to provide a free and appropriate education for all children. It is supported with public funds and includes services for all children from primary through high school. Age is the only requirement for admission. Traditional Public Schools follow a curriculum that is in alignment with the Florida State Standards which are expectations of what all students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Orange County Public Schools serve 203,340 students within 19 high schools, 35 middles schools, 126 elementary schools four K-8 schools, and four exceptional education schools.

Charter Schools: An independently operated non-profit public school choice option that is funded by state tax dollars. Charter Schools are privately managed by their own board of directors which manages its own budget. Charter Schools develop their own goals and curriculum design which should be aligned with the Florida State Standards. They hire personnel and operate autonomously from the local school district. Not all students are accepted and they can be removed at the will of the school. There are 39 charter schools in Orange County serving 13,028 students. 15 of these charter schools are run by for-profit educational management companies. The Florida Legislature has recently passed a bill redirecting $96 million to charter schools for building and upgrading their facilities that are not owned by public school districts. These funds were previously earmarked for the construction and maintenance of Traditional Public Schools.

Private Schools (includes religious and non-religious schools): These are established and managed privately. Tuition rates, admission requirements, and selection criteria are established by the entity for student attendance. Students may receive scholarship vouchers through the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC) program where corporations can redirect a portion of their FL tax liability to the scholarship fund. Private schools receiving Florida Tax Credit Scholarship funds are exempt from following the Florida State Standards and determine their own academic curriculum. In Orange County there are 152 private schools that are eligible to receive Florida Tax Credit vouchers; 71% are religious schools and 29% are non-religious.

School Accountability: The process of evaluating school performance on the basis of student performance (i.e. standardized testing).

McKay Scholarship: This provides scholarship vouchers from state tax dollars for eligible students with a range of disabilities to attend an eligible public or private school of their choice.

Gardiner Scholarship: This program provides eligible students with a specified disability a scholarship voucher from state tax dollars that can be used to purchase approved services or products in order to design a customized educational program for the student. Scholarships can be used for services such as speech or occupational therapy, instructional materials, tuition at an eligible private school, contributions to college prepaid account and more.

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