Rep. Richard Corcoran, sponsor of Florida tax credit scholarship bill – podcastED

Behind the scenes, this year’s bill to expand Florida’s tax credit scholarship program (which passed the House and Senate and is awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s signature) sparked a bit of a stir in the choice community. The reason: It opens the door for private schools that accept tax credit scholarships to voluntarily administer the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test – the state’s main standardized test.

Some private school supporters fear the requirement in HB 859 will pave the way for an FCAT mandate on private schools. But state Rep. Richard Corcoran, the bill’s sponsor, says in this podcast that he doesn’t see that happening. He also explains why he did include the provision – and it’s an interesting argument given that many critics of the program think the lack of an FCAT requirement gives private schools an unfair advantage over public schools.

“When you talk to some of these private schools, a lot of them are losing enrollment during these difficult economic times because parents have to cut somewhere with their salaries being so devastated,” Corcoran said. “And one of the things they’re doing is, they’re pulling their kids out of private school and putting them in public school, and they’re saying to these private schools, ‘Well, we really like the Christian aspect or the parochial aspect, but the academic stuff, we don’t know if it’s much different, so we’re going to do this (go public).’ “

“And I think one of the things these private schools would like is to be able to say, ‘No, if you look at our scores on the FCAT versus your (public school) scores on the FCAT, there’s a tremendous difference.’ And hopefully that will increase enrollment, not decrease it.”

Corcoran’s thoughts on testing requirements, which he goes into more detail about in the podcast, should be of interest to school choice observers everywhere. As vouchers and tax credit scholarships get considered in other states, there is plenty of debate about where the lines should be drawn so the interests of students, families, schools and taxpayers are balanced.

On a different note, Corcoran makes a prediction about the parent trigger bill that the Florida Senate shot down last week on a 20-20 vote: “I’d be shocked if parent trigger doesn’t pass next year … and I’d be shocked if it doesn’t pass with bipartisan support.”

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at


Why would corcoran try and make the private schools participate in the FCAT because of scholarship funding. A lot of parents want their children in private school because of the FCAT in public schools. Parents are not going to say well let me enroll my child in this private schools because of the FCAT scores. (NO) People are running away from that not to it. Parents want their children to learn and to be comfortable doing it, not to have all that stress on them in the second, third and forth grade and so on because of a test that may hold them back. I think as a parent that the FCAT does not belong in the private school sector, and it shouldn’t be forced on them because they are receiving scholarship funds. The parents that are taking their children out of private schools and sending them back to public schools have their reasons for doing so, you better know that is has absolutely nothing to do with the FCAT or it’s scores. Take it from me as parent whose child has been in both public and private schools that parents prefer private over public minus the FCAT. So please leave the private schools alone when you’re talking about the FCAT. THE BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PRIVATE SCHOOLS VERSES PUBLIC SCHOOLS = THE FCAT AND PARENTS LOVE NOT HAVING TO DEAL WITH THE FCAT. THANK YOU

You have stated, very well, what we hear from parents every day. Thank you.

jose tavarez

I agreed with rhonda about the FCAT out of the private schools. My
Daugther was bombarded with a lot of information because her teacher was rushing to meet her deadline. My daugther is great student but she was streesed out because tof this.

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