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Scholarship students urge teachers’ union to drop tax credit suit

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

A handful of students from a private school in Osceola County visited Tallahassee Thursday to drop by the offices of Florida’s largest teachers’ union to deliver a message on behalf of adults in the school choice movement: “Drop the suit.”

Specifically, they referred to the suit filed by the Florida Education Association and other groups against the state of Florida, challenging a tax credit scholarship program that allows Floridians to receive credits for donations to private institutions on their annual tax bill.

The children brought faux Valentine’s Day greetings to the educators’ union headquarters a block from the state Capitol, though no one was available to greet them. They also came bearing personalized candies reading “#DropTheSuit.”

Bob Bellafiore, a spokesperson for the Hispanic CREO (Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options), said the kids — taking a break from school for the day on a “civics field trip” — would suffer if the union successfully overturned the program, which funds scholarships for some 80,000 Florida students in secular and parochial nonpublic schools.

“Today was really just about sweetness,” said Bellafiore of the stunt, adding that advocates are also trying to convince the union to drop its suit through more traditional channels. “These kids deserve the same chances that people of means have to choose a school that best fits their needs.”

Deborah Gomes, the mother of two of the children who attend IEC Academy near Orlando, said the school opened up new horizons for her children that wouldn’t be possible without the scholarships.

The lawsuit continues despite recent setbacks for the plaintiffs, including the withdrawal of the Florida School Boards Association from the case.

The event comes after the FEA and charter advocates held rival rallies in Tallahassee, each bringing thousands to cajole lawmakers to their side.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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