Tell your state representative to support SB 56

The organization that administers Florida’s growing array of voucher programs — Step Up For Students — insists it doesn’t want private schools to discriminate against minority groups, but it has no legal basis to deny those schools voucher money. ref 1

Florida Senator Darryl Rouson introduced SB 56 for the 2020 legislative session. The bill will add the following language to the Florida statutes (f.s.):

A private school participating in an educational scholarship program … may not deny enrollment to a student based on the student’s race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity;

I hope this strong statement in Florida Education Commissioner Corcoran’s letter  ​(​ ref ​2)​  means he will be supportive of Senator Rouson’s bill:

For my part, I intend to exercise all avenues afforded to me through Florida statutes and rules to investigate and act. I will swiftly, and to the limits of my office and resources, investigate and prosecute any individuals who threaten the equity and cultural sensitivity of the educational experience of our public schools.

The term “public schools” as was used in the Florida Education Commissioner’s letter has become blurred with the proliferation of taxpayer money funding charter schools and private schools. Going forward, we need to make clear which regulations only our neighborhood schools need to follow and which regulations apply to all schools receiving public money either directly or indirectly via the tax credit scheme.

In addition to urging your legislator and the Education Commissioner to support SB 56, please also urge them to require Florida Statute 1003.42 (g) to apply to any school receiving public funds. Florida Statute 1003.42(g) requires the teaching of a course that will lead to an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society.

Also please urge your legislator to introduce legislation that will make clear that freedom of religion laws don’t give one person priority in legal disputes in a way that harms another.

Ref 1 https://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/editorials/os-op-florida-vouchers-disciminate-gay-students-20190706-3qbgvqro6jcd7of6hf4c4b3eim-story.html

Ref  2 http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/35/urlt/HolocaustLetter-July2019.pdf

Ref 3 https://www.adl.org/blog/empowering-educators-to-discuss-hard-topics

Ref 4 http://www.flholocausteducationtaskforce.org/classroom-resources/

Florida’s Tax Credit Scheme allows some businesses to divert dollar for dollar their tax liability money to a private school. Read more:

https://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/2019/02/15/gov-ron-desantis-reveals-plan-to-eliminate-scholarship-wait-list/

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