They hold public schools in contempt. They think private schools are better. They want to privatize everything. Supporters of school choice, including vouchers and tax-credit scholarships, have long been defined by cartoonish stereotypes. And as a former education reporter for one of the biggest newspapers in the country, I know how hard it is to redefine story lines that are so set in stone, it doesn’t matter how overwhelming the evidence is to the contrary.
Glenton “Glen” Gilzean Jr., the newest school board member in Pinellas County, Florida, the seventh biggest school district in Florida and the 24th biggest in the country, has a rare opportunity to chip away at those perceptions.
Appointed last month by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Gilzean, 29, openly supports vouchers and tax-credit scholarships for low-income children, which makes him as rare among school board members as a mouse at a cat convention. We can’t think of another sitting school board member in Florida who so openly supports private school choice options.
Believing that such options hold promise, of course, does not in any way mean easing up on other efforts to improve outcomes for children within public schools. For many school choice supporters, it has never been either/or. Gilzean can show that in coming months as he weighs in on all kinds of decisions affecting a sprawling district of 101,000 students.