Lakeland republican senator Paula Dockery knew who the 20th vote was which would defeat parent trigger legislation in Florida. She said the evening before that the vote was 20-20. Opponents of the bill didn’t know who it was. But then again neither did senate leadership who pulled every trick in the book to make this happen.
I’d speculated that potential votes could come from republican senators David Simmons or Jack Latvala who had both been critical of charter schools. Latvala essentially proposed to rewrite the bill in an amendment on Wednesday. Although Latvala voted for SB 1718, this comment he made on Wednesday justified the concern people had for the bill.
“I think we should not ignore these F-schools but, by the same token, I don’t support taking over public schools by the commercial charter school industry,’’
Latvala’s proposed amendment “would include several restrictions on attempts to use the failing schools to organize new charter schools.” It would also”outlaw any remuneration for anyone who signs or collects signatures, outlaw for-profit charter schools from being involved in any petition solicitation; and it would clearly define who can vote – parents whose children are leaving the school would be prohibited from voting while parents whose children are coming into the school would be allowed to vote.”
Without realizing what he was doing, Latvala was telling Floridians that opponents were right and that Jeb Bush, Patricia Levesque and senate sponsors of SB 1718 were wrong. Latvala never posted his amendment.
Still no one knew who that 20th vote was. Leadership was sure to have known where guys like Simmons and Latvala were. At precisely 2:11 yesterday afternoon the world found out that the 20th NO came from an astonishing source. Umatilla republican Senator Alan Hays was a co-sponsor of SB 1718. No one knew – save Paula Dockery – that Hays would vote NO on his own bill. His name never came up in news reports nor was he a lobbying target of any significance.
But word came within minutes that senate leadership went into motion to get Hays to change his vote before the night was over. The time for Jeb Bush to personally get involved had arrived. The former Florida governor had an influential figure from Hays’ community call on his behalf. Gary Lester, VP of the Villages retirement community made the call. Hays held firm.
Defeat of parent trigger legislation represents a stunning defeat for Jeb Bush. The perception of Bush as having the final say in Florida educaton policy no longer exists. Eight NO votes from republican senators – most of whom perviously supported Bush’s education initiatives – signals an end to his domination of the education narrative. Real skepticism now exists within his own party for his agenda. The days of blind obedience for drinking the kool-aid are over.