Florida CSE Activists Storm the State House to Demand School Choice

Nearly 250 of Florida Citizens for a Sound Economy’s activists lobbied their state representatives to demand support for H.B. 303 and S.B. 504. This legislation applies to parents of students attending schools at over 120 percent capacity. Parents would be allowed to take part of the tax dollars spent on their child and use it at another public or private school. Activists also urged support for separate legislation to allow a tax credit for businesses that contribute to private scholarships, thereby making school choice available to even more parents.

A CSE activist lobbies her legislator
before the vote on H.B. 303.

Florida CSE members have been e-mailing their elected officials to support the voucher bill and came from across the state to Tallahassee for two days this week to lobby personally for passage. CSE activist and state representative Jim Kallinger publicly recognized CSE members sitting in the gallery as the bill was being debated on the House floor. Speaker Tom Feeney distributed CSE talking points on the bill to all members on the floor.

The press conference, cosponsored by Floridians for School Choice, featured CSE activists as well as Florida CSE Director Slade O’Brien, House Speaker Tom Feeney, Rep. Carlos Lacasa (bill sponsor), former NBA player, parent and educator Greg Kite, and a number of House supporters of the bill. Afterward, NBC news, AP, the Florida Channel, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and the Miami Herald interviewed CSE activists on the legislation. All covered the story.

CSE activists rally for school choice
at a press conference at the Capitol.

On an NBC news statewide broadcast, Hillsborough County parent and CSE activist Deana Page explained how her son is entering a public elementary school that has vacancies and is actively recruiting students, while another district two blocks over has an extremely overcrowded school. “This makes no sense that the kids literally down the street cannot go to our school,” she exclaimed. Our activists’ calls of “What do we want? School Choice! When do we want it? NOW!” caught the attention of Gov. Jeb Bush, who heard us outside his window and told an aid, “There’s CSE – There’s our people.”

“The system isn’t working the way it is. Why shouldn’t we look at alternatives? Why shouldn’t parents have more choice in where their kids go to school? We pay taxes, too…”

-CSE activist Patricia Spinella, a mother from Boca Raton, quoted in the Sun- Sentinel News, March 23, 2001

At Speaker Tom Feeney’s and Rep. Lacasa’s requests activists pushed back their departure time to return to the House gallery and be recognized again during the final debate. The House bill then passed by a vote of 63 to 54.