The republican power brokers in the Florida senate didn’t want to hear from mothers like Colleen Wood during the battle over parent trigger. Wood, founder of 50th No More and current executive director of Save Duval Schools, was able to get three minutes with Governor Rick Scott after he signed the budget at Cunningham Creek Elementary School in St. Johns County. She was able to do so because – you guessed it – her involvement in the school. From the Tallahasee Democrat:
The woman who started a grassroots parent group to support public education actually sowed the seeds for that group in the halls of the school where Gov. Rick Scott signed the 2012-13 budget.
Following the governor’s signing ceremony, Colleen Wood told Scott Florida parents are not happy with the budget or with state policy.
“Now, anytime he says he hasn’t heard from parents, we can say ‘Yes sir, you have,’ ” said Wood, the mother of a current and a former student at Cunningham Creek Elementary School in St. Johns County.
Wood, who founded 50th No More about five years ago as a vehicle for parents to support public education policy, hand delivered a letter to Scott on Tuesday when she was given about three minutes to talk to him. She was among a group allowed to chat with Scott because of her association with the school, Wood said.
Among other things, Wood’s letter said she and the group are pleased the state’s education budget wasn’t cut again, but the $1 billion for education in the 2012-13 budget doesn’t offset cuts made in the current-year state budget. Scott says that’s not so, arguing that it’s $1.3 billion in federal money that disappeared from this year’s budget while the state’s contribution has remained level and been increased.
Scott, in his budget transmittal letter, said he and the Legislature focused spending on education that will help the state’s economy rebound.
“This budget focuses on students by providing an additional $1.068 billion for K-12 education that will be used to enhance reading programs for struggling readers and provide funding to schools that are the building blocks of a strong economy,” Scott wrote.
Wood was glad for the chance to speak directly to Scott.
“I think what, hopefully, we made clear to the governor is that we are an organized group,” Wood said of the about 15,000 parents who are now associated with her group through a web of relationships between parent groups all around the state. “We expect to be at the table. These are our children.”
Wood said her records show thousands of emails were sent to him that he said he never received.
“We do have concerns,” she told Scott.
“Our voice is ignored, our emails have gone unanswered. The leadership in Tallahassee has not wanted to hear from dissenting parents,” she said. “We want him to know we expect him to bring people to the table who represent children, not lobbyists for foundations.”
Wood said parents need an equal voice to the power still wielded by former Gov. Jeb Bush and his Foundation for Florida’s Future, which focuses on educational issues.
“We are just as important,” Wood said of parents. “We offer an alternate vision of what education is and what it can be. We want the best for every child. I don’t think we’re getting that now.”
Wood and others were instrumental in the defeat of the so-called parent-trigger bill during the legislative session when they began a social-networking campaign among parents.
I couldn’t agree with Wood more. Scott and his allies in the legislature won’t be in the same room with opposing voices. Unlike top dollar lobbyists and the edu hacks who drives policy in Florida, Wood does so with little compensation or financial backing. It is this truth which gives her and the other moms who defeated Parent Trigger a level of moral authority that Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee can only dream of.
* Please note that this post has been updated to reflect that Colleen Wood is the founder of 50th No More and not Fund Education Now. She is also Executive Director of Save Duval Schools