FL teacher/union member: Lawsuit wrong against school choice program

redefinED staff

thanks_teacherA Florida public school teacher and teachers union member is speaking out against the lawsuit that threatens to dismantle the nation’s largest private school choice program – and take away the scholarship that is benefitting one of her children.

In an op-ed in today’s Miami Herald, Miami teacher and union steward Marlene Desdunes describes the lawsuit against Florida’s tax credit scholarship program, which is serving about 69,000 low-income students this year, as spiteful and “antithetical to our values” as teachers. She writes:

How could we, in the name of teaching, uproot these children from schools that are working for them? No one asked me whether my $837 in annual union dues could be used to try to throw my daughter out of St. Mary’s, and this court fight is turning school and union leaders whom I admire into politicians that I hardly recognize.

In Miami-Dade, more than 18,000 students use the scholarship, and yet when some of the parents showed up at a recent School Board meeting to protest the lawsuit, the board voted not to even hear what they had to say. That’s a degree of callous indifference to poor parents of color that I don’t ever remember seeing from the School Board. Do children in our community not matter unless they attend a district-operated school?

Desdunes’s op-ed notes she is the mother of three students – one who attends a Miami-Dade district school, another who attends a private school with help from a tax credit scholarship, and a third who attends a private with help from a McKay scholarship for students with disabilities. She is also among 15 parents who were granted intervenor status earlier this month to help defend the program against the Florida teachers union, Florida School Boards Association and other groups who filed suit against it Aug. 28. The program is administered by nonprofits like Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.

Desdunes isn’t the only public school teacher making her opposition known.

Marlene Desdunes

Another Miami teacher, Heidi Gonzalez, made a facebook video last month in which she called the suit “horrendous.” Step Up records show at least 700 school district employees in Florida are the parents of tax credit scholarship students, though it’s unclear how many are teachers.

In the op-ed, Desdunes slams the campaign against the scholarship program, saying it has  “relied too much on disinformation.” She also doesn’t spare the union from criticism. In a reference to union president Joanne McCall, she writes:

McCall, who is a smart and passionate educator, keeps talking in press conferences about how the union stands behind “all” students and how “children are our most precious resource.” Her words, undoubtedly, are well-meaning, but they are painfully tone deaf to the 69,000 underprivileged students — and their parents — who we have now pushed into a state of panic.

Read the full op-ed in the Miami Herald here.

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