The Florida Coalition for Public School Options (FCPSO) today hosted a successful School Choice Day at the Capitol. Over 700 parents, students and teachers gathered from every region in Florida to learn first-hand about the legislative process, listen to remarks from high-level policymakers, and interact with their elected representatives. Their mission this year was also to demand that Florida virtual charter school applications be approved at the local school board level, which has seen multiple denials from state approved providers, and equitable funding for charter school students.
Cheri Shannon, President and CEO of the Florida Charter School Alliance emceed the program and provided opening remarks about last year’s legislation relating to high performing charter school bill and the virtual charter school bill. “Unfortunately those bills that were passed last year are not being implemented in the way they were designed by the legislature to be implemented.”
“We need districts to follow the law. We have districts that are denying virtual charter school applications which we know are essential. Fifty-three applications were put in this year and only 3 have been approved. That is not what legislators had in mind when they passed these bills. We need school districts to follow the law,” she continued.
In addressing the large crowd of attendees, Governor Rick Scott said, “Last year we had a great bill, the Student Success Act. We made sure that everything we do here for education is going to be for the benefit of students. We made sure you had more choices, about the schools you wanted to go to; we made sure it was easier to expand charter schools but the truth is what we want is school choice. Because we know that with more choice you’re going to make everyone get better.”
Upon accepting the Golden Apple Award given by the Coalition, State Representative Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) said “the reason we do this is for you, because not all of you learn the same way and when we give you choices to learn in the way that you like to learn, you’re going to learn more, you’re going to learn better and have a more promising future.”
In his remarks to the crowd, Florida Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson stated, “You live as young people at the best time to be a student in Florida. As your Commissioner, I believe that a quality education across the board is important — public, private, home school, virtual, tax credit, the whole works. And the Governor believes so as well.”
State Representative Erik Fresen (R-Miami) in speaking to the students said “It’s about you, it’s not about a school district, it’s not about the powers that be, the reason why we are here and the reason why we do what we do and pass the bills that we pass is to try and effect change to empower the parents with more and more important to empower you.”
“It is a delight to be the house sponsor for House Bill 903 dealing with student equity,” said State Representative Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach). “I filed that bill because I absolutely believe in parent’s rights and parent choice and I believe all students should have the same access to a quality education.”
“We are happy to stand up here with support throughout the business community to say we believe in parental choice in education,” said Tom Feeney, President and CEO, Associated Industries of Florida. “We believe deeply in choice, whether that means public school choice, virtual schools, tuition scholarships, magnet schools, open enrollments, the bottom line is that there is no one size fits all system of education that meets the needs of every individual child in the state of Florida.
Wendy Howard, former Florida Chapter President, National Coalition for Public School Options had this to say, “We had incredible success for virtual charters and duplication of high performing charters. As a parent, I can say I’m extremely disappointed with the fact that the charter applications are being denied. As a parent, that was very difficult for me to see.”
The event kicked off at the Leon County Civic Center with presentations from Rose Fernandez, with the National Parent Network for Online Learning; Michael Kooi, Executive Director of the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice; and Brian Kennedy, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Public School Options. Participants then marched to the Capitol to show their support for public school choice legislation.
At the steps of the Capitol, Cheri Shannon, President/CEO of the Florida Charter School Alliance and Wendy Howard, former Florida Chair, Coalition for Public School Options emceed an awards ceremony where policymakers were recognized for their support. The Future of Educations’ Golden Apple Award honorees included Florida Governor Rick Scott; Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R-Melbourne); Florida Majority Leader Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando); State Senator John Thrasher (R-Jacksonville); State Senator Stephen Wise (R-Jacksonville); State Representative Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach); State Representative Erik Fresen (R-Miami); and State Representative Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland).
The day concluded with one-on-one meetings between parents, students and their elected officials.
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About The National Coalition for Public School Options
The National Coalition for Public School Options (NCPSO) is an alliance of parents that supports and defends parents’ rights to access the best public school options for their children. The Coalition supports the creation of public school options, including charter schools, online schools, magnet schools, open enrollment policies and other innovative education programs. Additionally, NCPSO advocates for free and equal access without restrictions to these public schools for all children. For additional information, go to www.PublicSchoolOptions.org/Florida.