Kathy Castor to hold anti-voucher event in South Tampa today

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U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, joined by several local educators, will be in South Tampa on Monday morning to discuss Florida’s school voucher program and its impact on the state’s public schools.

State Rep. Mark Danish, who represents Lutz, Carrollwood, and parts of North Tampa, will appear with Castor and PTA representatives from Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties at a media event beginning 10 a.m. in front of Tampa’s Wilson Middle School at 1005 W. Swann Avenue.

In a statement issued by Castor’s office, the Tampa Democrat will “call attention to several decaying local public school buildings where critical capital needs have been delayed because of deficient state funding.”

Castor is focusing on the continuing trend of the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature moving taxpayer dollars to privately-run charter schools, instead of improving struggling public schools across the state.

“This year is proving to be no different under budget plans by the governor, Florida House and Florida Senate,” she said. “Letting children languish in buildings that are not properly maintained affects their ability to receive the quality education expected by Florida families.”

Last week, the House passed HB 7167, which extends the voucher program to allow more students, such as those from middle class families, to become eligible for the state’s main private school program by 2016.

“The government does not know best, and parents should know best where to place their child,” Republican Rep. Manny Diaz told the Associated Press afterwards. “And we should give them the option.”

Florida school choice vouchers, including the popular McKay Scholarship Program, currently serve nearly 60,000 students from low-income families, letting them attend private schools, more than 80 percent of which are religious.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.