Calls for union to drop suit against tax credit scholarships

A total of 92,000 once-struggling students are receiving the kind of educational opportunity they need for a better life free from poverty. So why is Florida’s public education union pursuing a lawsuit to stop them?

Florida has many excellent public schools, but a school that works for one student may not work for another.

That’s why the Florida Legislature created a scholarship program that allows struggling students to attend a school that best suits their needs.

Among the students benefitting from this program, two-thirds are minorities and their average household income is near the poverty line. Test data shows they were among the lowest performers at their former public schools.

Thanks to our commitment to school choice, these children’s lives have been transformed for the better. Rigorous studies, required by state law, show that scholarship students are making steady academic gains in their new schools. As a state, we must expand opportunity for every child. The first rung on that ladder of opportunity is a quality education.

Two years ago, the union representing public school teachers filed a lawsuit to kill the tax credit scholarship and force those students back to the public school they chose to leave. A circuit judge dismissed the lawsuit. The union appealed.

On Aug. 16, just as these 92,000 students began their new school year, the First District Court of Appeal again rejected the union’s lawsuit. This decision should have allowed students and parents to stop worrying and focus on the new school year. But the union is deciding whether to appeal again.

Over the past 20 years, we’ve improved education in Florida by giving parents and students the power to choose. We have magnet schools, charter schools, home schools, virtual education, career academies and IB programs. A generation ago, if you were zoned to attend a school that wasn’t right for your child, you were stuck.

Today, over 40 percent of students funded by the taxpayers do not attend their zoned public school. In the Miami-Dade district, the number is over 60 percent. The Florida Legislature has created solutions customized to the educational needs of every child. Those solutions are working.

My Republican colleagues and I are committed to improving education for every child, and this includes supporting scholarship programs.

It’s clear that more choice is good for students.

It’s also clear that this expansion of options and opportunities can’t be stopped because more and more parents demand it. Anyone who believes in equal opportunity demands it.

I urge the union to drop the suit, embrace change and join the movement toward a new definition of public education focused on quality outcomes and opportunities for every child.

Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast