Educational choice helps push Scott over the top

Crist flip-flop on school choice costs him the election

The Florida Federation for Children (FFC), a state affiliate of the American Federation for Children, celebrated Gov. Rick Scott’s victory and called Charlie Crist’s loss a blow to opponents of educational choice. In a sign that voters reacted to a union led lawsuit against Florida’s popular educational choice program FFC backed candidates throughout Florida were victorious tonight.

“Parents and proponents of educational choice sent a strong message tonight: don’t mess with our children’s education,” said John Kirtley, chairman of the Florida Federation for Children. “There’s no doubt educational choice played major a role in the outcome of tonight’s election, as voters in Crist’s base were concerned about his refusal to denounce the lawsuit to shut down the tax credit scholarship program.   Tonight voters rewarded Gov. Scott for supporting educational choice and that message has resonated throughout the state as many pro-educational choice candidates won their races across Florida.”

In August, the state teachers’ union and the Florida School Boards Association filed a lawsuit asking the courts to shut down the state’s tax credit scholarship program. FFC decided it was imperative to inform the parents of the 70,000 children empowered by the program where the two candidates for governor stood on the lawsuit. FFC did direct mail and electronic mail, as well as utilized social media to reach these families, who are greatly concerned about the future of the scholarship program. Gov. Rick Scott remained a steadfast supporter, while Charlie Crist, who as governor had expanded the program, sided with the teachers’ union and school boards on the lawsuit.

“Gov. Rick Scott is tremendous champion for educational choice and tonight’s victory is part of a nationwide wave of parents rising up to challenge the status quo and demand more educational options,” added Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. “I want to congratulate Gov. Scott for his principal and willingness to put the needs of Florida students ahead of union bosses.”

The lawsuit has been publicly denounced by many black ministers, traditionally known as staunch supporters of Democratic candidates.  FFC’s email message obtained more than 65,000 impressions on social media and more than 45,000 parents read the emails describing each candidate’s stance on the lawsuit. Without a doubt, the concern of these parents drove turnout and their willingness to vote on the issue contributed to Rick Scott’s victory.

In the State Senate elections, FFC educated voters about school choice advocates Jeff Brandes and Ellyn Bogdanoff, who have long histories of supporting the rights of low-income parents to choose their children’s schools. Brandes, of Tampa Bay, won his election decidedly and Bogdanoff came close to winning in a district where the party registration did not favor her.

In the State House elections, FFC was engaged in 17 closely contested races and in eight of those races pro-school choice challengers ran against incumbents who publicly opposed parental choice. Six of the challengers were victorious. Also nine pro-school choice incumbents won their re-elections.

“We especially want to congratulate Rep. Erik Fresen for a great victory,” added Kirtley, “He overcame massive spending by anti-school choice unions and other special interests to win his seat. We know he will continue to be an advocate for educational choice and empower parents in his district.”

This election was the first time the Florida Federation for Children was actively involved in local school board races. When the Florida School Boards Association decided to file a lawsuit to end the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, FFC could not stand by silently.  FFC became the voice for the 70,000 children served by this program and in the primary election was successful in several key races — including the defeat of the President and President-elect of the state school board association.

In the General Election FFC engaged in voter communications in three run-off school board elections, winning all three. FFC will continue to give low-income parents a voice during elections and be actively involved in local school board races as long as the lawsuit continues.