Arguably no state in America has redefined public education more than Florida. So how fitting that the latest lawmaker to rise to one of the key policy making slots is a former homeschooler.
State Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mt. Dora, said being homeschooled gives her unique insights into parental choice and personalized learning that will inform her world view as new chair of the House Education Committee.
In this redefinED podcast, she points out she struggled to read as a child. Had she been educated in a Florida public school rather than at home – where her mom had more flexibility to try different approaches – she said she may have fallen short on Florida’s third-grade reading test and been retained.
“As we did life, she read to me a lot. And we would work on it. But not in a way where I even knew we were working on it,” Sullivan said. “So when I was nine, it completely clicked for me. And I haven’t put down a book since.”
Sullivan, a conservative Republican, is all in for ed choice. But it may surprise some, given the caricatures of choice supporters, how much she emphasizes the equity and opportunity arguments – in part because of her own life experience.
Her family, she said, “wouldn’t have had the money to move into the really nice neighborhoods to go to the really nice public schools.” In a similar vein, students assigned to district schools that are not working for them “deserve better.”
Sullivan also makes clear that, in her view, expanding choice and strengthening public schools isn’t either/or. “I’m all for school choice. But I am not against our public schools,” she said. “Public schools are where the significant portion of students go to school. And if that’s where our students are, maybe that’s where the reform needs to take place.”