Sine Die: School Choice Movement hails 2019 Legislative Session as ‘historic’

School choice
Expansion in opportunity scholarships, workforce training celebrated.

With a major expansion in opportunity scholarships passed by the Florida Legislature, school choice advocates celebrated on Sine Day.

The School Choice Movement called the 2019 Legislation Session “historic.”

“Florida students emerged the biggest winners of this Legislative Session,” said Erika Donalds, School Choice Movement chair.

“While this session has been both encouraging and frustrating in some ways, what we’re seeing is a slow but continuous shift toward school choices being embraced as part of the norm in Florida’s publicly funded education system. None of this would have been possible without school choice legislative champions and the bold, bipartisan support we witnessed this year.”

The group offered praise to specific lawmakers in the House and Senate for championing program expansions.

Sen. Manny Diaz, a Miami Republican, and Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, a Eustis Republican, pushed for the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program. The group called the pair “champions.”

But the School Choice movement also celebrated new pathways for workforce education. The group praised a bill (HB 7071) that provides a vocational school pathway.

“This bill goes a long way in offering high-quality and accessible choices for high school students. It will help more Florida students prepare for success in life,’ reads a release from the Movement.

The group identified issue champions here as well in Sen. Travis Hutson, a Palm Coast Republican, and Reps. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, a Deland Republican, and Amber Mariano, a Hudson Republican.

The group praised legislation requiring a sharing of public school resources with charter schools, and honored Sens. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican, and Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, as well as Rep. Bryan Avila, a Miami Republican.

The group also noted some legislative disappointments.

In particular, the group wanted to see a state Charter School Commission, which they also fought for last year with Amendment 8.

Term limits for school board members failed to pass in the Legislature this year. The group suggested in its release if lawmakers don’t take up the issue, Florida could still see a statewide ballot by way of citizen petition.

And a Parents Bill of Rights ultimately took too long to come together before the end of Session, the group said.

Overall, Donalds said state leadership on education has paid back dividends.

“Florida public schools are performing at an all-time high in measures such as test scores and graduation rates,” Donalds said.

“In 1998, nearly half of Florida fourth graders were reading severely below grade level, while the latest Nation’s Report Card shows Florida is ranked 5th in the nation in fourth grade reading achievement. The list of student achievement gains is remarkable. Giving families a variety of publicly funded education options has also proven cost-effective and resourceful at every level.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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