The group that represents Florida’s school boards had planned to recognize the chairman of the state Senate’s education committee as its “Legislator of the Year.”
But after the Florida School Boards Association joined a lawsuit challenging tax credit scholarships for low-income families, Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, announced he has decided to decline the award.
“It is now apparent to me that the Association’s stance on educating low income students and access to choice in education is too conflicting with my own,” he wrote Friday in a letter to Wayne Blanton, the association’s executive director. “It saddens me that the FSBA would take a position that looks to eliminate customization in education.”
Legg’s decision is another sign the lawsuit is creating a rift between top lawmakers and the groups bringing the suit. Both current and incoming legislative leaders began denouncing the case before it was filed.
As the Senate’s top lawmaker on education policy for the past two years, Legg has been known for working closely with school districts. He has often helped keep the peace between their associations and other advocates on issues from charter schools to accountability.
In his statement responding to the lawsuit Thursday, he indicated the lawsuit betrayed the spirit of cooperation that has generally marked the Senate’s approach to education.
“Over the years and in particular the last legislative session, I have worked, in good faith, with many that now wish to eliminate school choice for all,” he said. “It is apparent that these groups were disingenuous with their efforts and have put their political views over that of our students’ needs.”
In his letter to Blanton, Legg writes that he has a “sincere hope” the school boards association “will abandon this hostile view toward low income students and customization.”
“Please know having grown up in a very low income household, my position will always be to advocate for access, quality, and customization for all students, but especially for those who don’t have the resources to access a quality education,” he wrote.
The tax credit scholarship program helps low-income students afford private-school tuition. It is administered by organizations like Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.