(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
To go along with Florida’s great news from NAEP, comes this from Florida parental choice champion John Kirtley:
Today 5,500 low income parents and children travelled to the distant Florida capitol of Tallahassee to show their support of parental choice, and their support of our bill to dramatically expand the tax credit scholarship program for low income children. Some of them took buses all night long to attend our rally, and their numbers set a national record for a parental choice rally. We conducted a headcount as they stepped off ninety eight 55-passenger buses this morning, and the total was 5,115. Another 406 arrived in cars for a grand total of 5,500.
But the numbers weren’t the only story. The lineup of speakers who endorsed our the bill included the acting president of the national Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Also endorsing the bill was the President of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and a group of South Florida Hispanic public school teachers. This is far from the typical story line for a rally supporting parental choice, and shows that in Florida this learning option for low-income students has achieved critical levels of bipartisan support.
Here is what Rep. James Bush, representing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, told the crowd:
It is no coincidence that the first African-American to live in the White House is a man with an Ivy League degree, and just last summer President Obama made a powerful point about our history. There’s a reason, our President said, the story of the civil rights movement was written in our schools. There’s a reason, he said, that Thurgood Marshall took up the cause of Linda Brown. There’s a reason, he said, why the Little Rock Nine defied a governor and a mob. It’s because, President Obama told us, there is no stronger weapon against inequality and no better path to opportunity than an education that can unlock a child’s God-given potential.
I say to you today that the Tax Credit Scholarship program is one of the keys we use to unlock that potential. It is one way we can reach some of those children who go to bed hungry at night. It is one way we show that an empty pocketbook doesn’t have to mean an empty bookshelf – that all our learning tools need to be on the table for all our children.
I am here today as a messenger of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and I am here to proudly proclaim that the organization created by Dr. King believes that a scholarship for low-income children is one way to break the cycle and close the gap. I am here, standing before this inspiring sea of hopeful faces, to announce that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference endorses Tax Credit Scholarships and endorses the bill this year that will expand them. This is our future. God bless you all.
Florida Senate approved a major expansion of the Step Up for Students tax credit by a vote of 27-11. One quarter of the Democrats voted in favor.