“Vulnerable children” on one side. “Union bosses” on the other.
Florida’s incoming Senate president, Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, drew that sharp distinction in an op-ed Friday that blasted the Florida teachers union for filing suit last week against SB 850, the bill that created the Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts for students with significant disabilities, including autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy.
“These children and their families may not be a union priority, but they are my priority,” Gardiner wrote in the Tampa Tribune.
Gardiner. who has a son with Down syndrome, led the charge for creation of PLSAs. He noted that the personal connection made the bill a priority for him, then called it “deeply regrettable” that the teachers union would try to stop it.
It was not long ago when many students with disabilities were set aside in public education because it was assumed they could not learn or could not share classrooms with other students. It was the advocacy of parents that ended these discriminatory and damaging policies.
For this reason, I think it is deeply regrettable that before the first parent could even submit an application for a PLSA, the Florida Education Association – our statewide teachers union – filed a lawsuit to block it.
The union bosses can spin the lawsuit however they want. But the bottom line is this: They view every opportunity that gives parents freedom to make education choices as a threat to their power. They are advocates for the union, not your children.
Signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, SB 850 also modestly expanded the tax credit scholarship program for low-income students. (Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog, is authorized to administer both parental choice programs.) Gardner pointed to the lawsuit’s potential impact on both groups of children, and vowed to defend them.
“The good news for Florida families is that we will not turn our backs on these children. As long as I am in the process, the Senate will work to empower parents, particularly the parents of our most vulnerable children. We will not be deterred by union bosses, union politics or union lawyers.”