Florida PTA: The Boogeyman Who Torments Step Up for Students

During last year’s run-up to another failed parent trigger bid, House sponsor Rep. Carlos Trujillo attempted to marginalize PTA opponents of his bill as “there to bake cookies.” Trujillo’s problem – and that of shaky voucher administrator Step Up for Students – is that members of the Florida PTA show up at hearings to oppose their legislation. The image of actual parents standing up against them obliterates their narrative. The attempt by SUFS continues. Consider this from an outraged, unidentified parent in a letter that SUFS posted in their blog after members of the Florida PTA showed up to oppose expansion of Florida’s voucher program:

I find very suspicious any group calling themselves The Florida PTA is against facilitating freedom of choice for families to use their own tax money to choose what school they send their children to whether the school is religious or not.  The agenda of organizations like the Florida PTA seem to be more rooted in preserving their own relevance and self preservation.  I think that the primary reason that organizations like the Florida PTA are resistant to such programs and their expansion is because they have not adequately determined what the function or relevance of their own organization would be in a future with more private schools than public schools.

SUFS didn’t even want admit which one of them posted the letter as it was attributed to “staff.” Top SUFS executive Jon East seems to be the one tasked with taking on the Florida PTA and other parent groups who are opposing this year’s  voucher expansion. From East’s Tampa Tribune column:

Eileen Segal is a gracious Florida PTA president who welcomed to her annual conference last summer a contingent of low-income parents who take advantage of a state scholarship for their children.

So she was speaking from the heart in a crowded House committee room last month when she said: “What you’re doing here today is very sad; it hurts my heart. Parents should not fight against parents. We all need to work together because we all want the same thing for our children — the best-quality education.”

Eileen is right, and yet she was part of a PTA group that had come to the Legislature to condemn the educational option that parents of 60,000 of the state’s poorest students have chosen this year. The audience that day was crowded with scholarship parents and their children, who in some cases sat next to PTA parents who stood on the other political side.

The PTA is not alone in this regard. A group called Parents Across Florida has written rather viciously about how the Tax Credit Scholarship for low-income children should be abandoned, even arguing that “vouchers actually strip away parents’ ultimate choice” and that parents want only neighborhood schools and “don’t want to be forced to shop around.” A group called Fund Education Now, which is led by three women who have played a constructive role in fighting for greater investment, has called the legislative effort to expand the scholarship to more underprivileged children “shameless.”

East’s clever patronization of Segal, coupled with his reference to her first name, is crafted is this manner  to make him seem like the reasonable one. It’s doubtful that East or any other SUFS executive for that matter,  is on record anywhere supporting Fund Education Now’s “constructive role in fighting for greater investment.”

With significant media scrutiny falling on both SUFS and the current voucher expansion bill which has no accountability provision and a price tag of $1 billion, SUFS top dollar executives have decided to focus efforts on their unpaid opponents.



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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