Editor’s note: About 200 people who support Florida’s tax credit scholarship program, including many scholarship students themselves, attended yesterday’s legislative committee hearing on a bill to expand the program. Many speakers made many good points, but a woman from Ocala stole the show. The audience applauded her, lawmakers praised her, reporters quoted her. Here is what Chanae Jackson-Baker told the committee. Her remarks were edited slightly for length and clarity.
I worked 12 hours last night in Gainesville. I drove to Ocala to get my kid to school, then drove to Tallahassee to be here. That’s how important this is to me.
We keep talking about money, we keep talking about the money. The children are an investment. … I pay $500 a month over what the scholarship covers. … Because we’re putting in more, and investing more, we are willing to give more.
I don’t know about anybody else’s private school, but the one my children attend, they took the Stanford 10, which is actually a lot better … than the FCAT. I keep hearing talk of the FCAT. When my son took the FCAT in third grade, he was doing horrible. He was doing horrible because he had auditory processing disorder. He has dyslexia. He’s on the autism spectrum. When he was in public school, and I hate to bash public school because I was the parent on SAC committee and PTO before I gave up on public school … He left public school reading at third grade, four month level in sixth grade. He’s now in seventh grade and he’s on level. I never thought I’d see my son read a book.
I have my step daughter … she came from a public school. She missed 85 days in kindergarten. No one stepped in. No one. She almost flunked out of kindergarten. She’s now in her school. She’s now excelling.
It’s not just education. It’s character. When my eight-year-old and my nine-year-old come to talk to me about integrity, when they talk about being good to people, when they talk about there being a family at school, that’s what this scholarship is all about.
In public school, and the PTO, we had to raise money just to have somebody for them to have art every other week. There was no art. There was no PE. Now they have art, they have PE. They come home in third grade talking about phalanges. They tell me about phalanges. They tell me about history. They tell me about the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria. They’re so excited … These are the things that are going on.
Somebody said, is there a line for public school? No, there’s not a line. But I have one who has ADHD but he’s an honor student. He’s in three magnet programs. But he’s in an honor class with 40 students. His teachers cannot accommodate.
I love teachers. I think it’s a thankless job. And I’m so sick of politicians getting in the way of them doing their job. But the problem is, they just can’t accommodate. Even when I email a teacher, where my kids, the girls, go to school at, I get a response back by the end of the day. Some teachers where my son goes to school, I can’t get an email back in two weeks, although the policy says I need to get it back in 48 hours. But I cannot be mad at them when they have 40 students times five. My son is in ninth grade. He’s one of 953. When he leaves there and goes to the school he’s going to next year, he’ll be one of 25. I mean there’s just a great disparity. …
So I’m willing to battle in order to give my kids an education. I’m here to let people know, we have to give our children choices. Even with me, it didn’t just inspire my children. When I saw that they could do anything, I saw that I can do anything. I graduated with my bachelor’s in psychology this year. That’s one thing I never thought I would be able to do. …
I’m so really disturbed that so many people are upset. We’re talking dollars and cents. If you don’t give them choices, it costs $17,338 a year to house a prisoner. If you don’t give them choices, they are the welfare recipients, the food stamp recipients and the Medicare recipients. You have to give them choices.
I was one of those people. I was. Being a parent is what taught me to grow up. I was the oldest of eight that an aunt raised. Nobody taught me anything. When I was in school, I had no support, I had no anything. My public school education, I must say was much better. But the one that developed for my children, that’s it. The teachers are against a rock and a hard place.
When my children were in public school, 800 students, only five parents would come in and participate. Where they are now, everybody participates. Everyone.