Down the rabbit hole on Florida’s Amendment 8

It’s concerning enough that Florida education reporters are overlooking basic facts about Amendment 8 – the “religious freedom amendment” – and in many cases simply repeating what the teachers unions and school boards say about it (that it’s really about vouchers voucher vouchers vouchers … ). But an Orlando Sentinel reporter took it a step further yesterday, incorporating opposition talking points into a story as if they were true.

This is what the post on the Sentinel’s SchoolZone blog said: “The Orange County School Board added their name to the roster of school boards officially opposing Amendment 8, which could lead to the revival of public vouchers to religious and private schools.”

As we’ve respectfully noted, there are debate-worthy reasons why people supporting Amendment 8 want to remove the “no aid” provision in the Florida Constitution. But because of the legal history here, private school choice isn’t seriously one of them.

The Sentinel post also mentioned a “recent analysis” by the relatively obscure Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, which was the topic of a separate blog post earlier in the day (and which followed a full story in the Sentinel that morning that, like so many others in recent weeks, did not ask “the other side” if vouchers were really an issue and offered no evidence that it was.) The analysis claims Amendment 8 “would have a huge negative impact on public education” and “would open the way for universal private school vouchers in Florida.”

The center – which once issued a report suggesting Education Week’s Quality Counts report wasn’t about education quality – has direct ties to the Florida Education Association and Florida School Boards Association, but those ties weren’t noted in either blog post.

Its claims are way off the mark, but don’t take our word for it. Please, take a closer look.

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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