Volume 1 Number 11
March 15, 2004



Last week, more than 2,000 students, teachers and parents gathered near the steps of Florida’s Old Capitol in a huge demonstration of support for school choice programs.  State leaders, including Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, praised those attending and promised to continue their support of vouchers for low-income families, disabled children and students trapped in failing schools.

“The results of education reforms enacted in 2000 speak for themselves,” Gallagher said.  “We’ve seen the number of ‘A’ schools grow five-fold and witnessed a 10 percent increase in the number of fourth graders reading on grade level.”

Gallagher, who served as Education Commissioner from 1998-2000, previously helped to guide school choice reform from a revolutionary idea to implementation of early programs.    He has also been instrumental in ensuring the programs continued success in his current role as Chief Financial Officer.  To guarantee the future financial viability, Gallagher’s office conducted a series of audits of Florida’s school choice programs, resulting in valuable recommendations to education leaders and lawmakers. 

“Just as we hold Florida’s students to high standards, we must hold government to the same standards,” Gallagher said.

According to Gallagher, in order for these valuable programs to continue to provide educational opportunities to thousands of children, many of whom are at-risk students, strong oversight, proper safeguards and financial accountability must be put in place. 

“These vital programs must be protected,” said Gallagher.  “They empower parents to seek educational opportunities for their children which were previously not available.”

Lorri Westphal, a Tampa mother who attended the rally, told the Tampa Tribune that, “Without these scholarships, this kid (14 year-old son Gregory) would have been a statistic.  There’s no doubt in my mind, he would have served jail time.”