Margie Viera: Why I support Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship proposal

"I want that opportunity for my boys. They deserve it."

Florida is the nation’s leader in empowering families with high-quality educational choices.

It’s a fact that close to 50 percent of Florida students exercise some form of school choice.

However, there are still countless families who can’t find a public option that fits their child. I should know — we are one of those families.

I’m a single mom to two wonderful boys who are, unfortunately, struggling in their current school. I am also a small-business owner and, while some years are better than others, I’ve never made enough to afford to send them to a private school.

Now you can imagine my excitement when I learned that the Florida House has proposed a new scholarship program that would allow me to choose a private school for my sons.

Last year, I applied for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, but we weren’t eligible because my income is just enough to disqualify our family.

The Florida House’s plan would include families like mine and other single moms who are doing their best to help their sons with little or no assistance.

For our family, access to a scholarship would be a lifesaver.

Otherwise, I am out of options and that’s potentially devastating for my sons. My youngest is losing his love of learning and rarely engages in class now. I worry that he has already been written off as a problem student.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, I have cause for concern.

National data from the 2015-16 school year shows that certain types of students — like Hispanic males — often face more serious school discipline than their nonminority peers. I know they could be successful in an alternative environment.

The evidence is there — a recent report showed that students participating in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program are more likely to attend college and graduate with a degree.

I want that opportunity for my boys. They deserve it.

Without access to a private school, I truly don’t know how my boys will receive the quality education that meets their needs.

I look forward to seeing what lawmakers will do to ensure students from low-income and middle-income families have access to great educational options.


Margie Viera is a single mom and lives in Orlando with her two sons. She is a small-business owner who is passionate about economic development, education equity and bilingual education. Her children would qualify for a private school choice scholarship under the House’s current Family Empowerment Scholarship proposal.

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  • Dennis Rees

    March 25, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    So you think it’s ok to take money designated for your child’s current public school to fund tuition for him at a private school making funding for the current school even worse? Sorry – that sounds selfish to me.

    Why doesn’t the state solve the problem by increasing the per student reimbursement to public schools to the same level as the tuition in private schools? Because the Governor and the Legislature doesn’t care about the quality of public schools. This program is nothing more than a naked transfer of resources from the public sector to the private sector. It exacerbates the issue that makes your child’s public school unacceptable to you in the first place.

  • Jan

    March 26, 2019 at 10:58 am

    I understand what this parent is saying and others like her. It is a fact that this program takes money from taxpayers and transfers it to private schools, which a constitutional issue. It is also a fact that parents think a private school is always the answer because there is something magical about the name “private” and what they do.
    There are some very elite private schools in Florida and these private schools will maintain their strict standards of admission and academic rigor. Then there are the rest of the private schools who will scramble for this money with all kinds of promises while they are unaccountable to the state for the money they receive–no state audits, no academic oversight and no accreditation, etc. In other words, doing what they please, teaching what they please and taking students that they please.
    As a public school guidance counselor for 35 years, I would suggest that the case of a struggling student be brought before the school-wide support team (SWST) of the school with the parent in attendance, which can implement academic and behavioral interventions which the public school teachers must follow. The teachers report back to the team in 6-9 weeks with documented results, new interventions can be put in place or the team can recommend academic or behavioral testing.
    If a student qualifies for a special services program, an individual education plan (IEP) is written and it must be followed BY LAW, or the school can lose federal money, or worse.
    Just because a school calls itself a private school does not mean it is better, offers any student services or accountable to any governance other than the owners of the school.

Comments are closed.


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