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Pro-school voucher rally expected to draw 10,000 to Tallahassee on Tuesday

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Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is slated to a march and rally in Tallahassee on Tuesday to support Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship. Several thousand participants and spectators are expected.

LobbyTools posed the event agenda last week. On Friday, Capitol Police director Chris Connell advised state workers via email that “organizers are busing in people from around the state and are planning for approximately 10,000 people to attend the rally.”

“This event may significantly impact traffic and parking around the Capitol Complex during this period,” Connell wrote. Tuesday will be the first day of the work week for state government; offices are closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday.

A news release said “rally participants will … urge the Florida teachers union to ‘drop the suit’ against the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, claiming that an end to the scholarship would harm Florida’s minority and low-income students.”

The Florida Education Association (FEA) held its own rally for public education outside the Capitol last week. It sued the state in 2014 over the program, contending it’s unconstitutional.

The scholarships, also known as school vouchers, can be used by students to attend private and religious schools.

Companies provide money for private-school scholarships for disadvantaged children, then get tax credits equal to their donations. The FEA, however, has long opposed school vouchers.

Circuit Judge George Reynolds dismissed the case last year, in part saying the FEA and other plaintiffs lacked the proper legal standing to sue. The plaintiffs then appealed to the 1st District Court of Appeal, where the matter is pending, dockets show.

Besides King, a human rights advocate and political activist, other scheduled headliners include Donna Allen, a former scholarship parent and contestant on NBC’s “The Voice;” the Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes Jr. of Tallahassee’s Bethel Missionary Baptist Church; and Bishop Victor T. Curry of Miami’s New Birth Baptist Church.

The march is scheduled to begin 10 a.m. Tuesday from the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center and travel along Pensacola Street to Duval Street for the rally planned for 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Connell’s email said the city plans to close Duval Street at 8 p.m. Monday “to allow for the construction of a large stage in the roadway” at Duval and Madison streets. Traffic will be blocked from entering Duval Street until about 2 p.m. Tuesday.

“The city will need to close St. Augustine Street in between (state parking) Lot D and the Supreme Court to prevent vehicle traffic from approaching Duval Street,” Connell wrote. “The Tallahassee Police Department has agreed to allow state employees to access Lot D in the morning until the event begins at 10 a.m.

“Employees attempting to access Lot D on the St. Augustine or Duval side will need to approach from Bronough Street and be prepared to show their state employee identification,” the email added.

“To insure the safety of pedestrians attending the event, vehicles will not be allowed to exit Lot D until the event ends at noon. Capitol Police Officers will be available in the Knott building parking lot to assist employees that need to exit during the event.”

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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