Why the Florida Senate Remains the Nation’s Key Battleground on Education Policy

Writes Matt Dixon in the Florida Times-Union:

The Republicans hold a 26-14 lead in the Florida Senate, which simple math will tell you means they should be able to muscle out any legislation they deem important.

Politics, though, isn’t always by the numbers.

In recent years, a bloc of six Republican senators has acted as a thorn in the side of the Senate’s GOP leadership, helping kill key bills. They include legislation to overhaul state pensions, education reform bills and a measure to privatize prisons in South Florida, among others.

If an early vote on this year’s watered-down pension reform measure is any indication, that choppy dynamic in the Senate will remain.

During a committee hearing on that proposal, state Sen. Jack Latvala, the St. Petersburg Republican often viewed as the ringleader of the group, was the lone GOP member to vote against the bill. Pension reform is a top priority for leaders in both chambers, but the vote sends a clear signal it will be no easy lift.

Latvala was one of six republican senators who voted against Parent Trigger last year to turn back the controversial charter school bill for the second straight year. The six are back again this year. Ironically, Latvala voted for Parent Trigger in 2012, but did so after expressing serious reservations.

Parent Trigger’s passage in the Florida senate in a state where Jeb Bush still reigned over education policy would have generated tremendous momentum across the nation for legislation that has shown to divide communities. With senate president Don Gaetz confirming on Thursday that pension reform is in trouble, its clear the Senate Six are standing firm against legislation which harms public sector professionals. Chances are they won’t just be rubber stamping bad charter school legislation and corrupt voucher expansion either. The Bush myth can’t metastasize into other states with continued defeats at the hands of his own party in his own state.

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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