When Bullard Loses, Public Education Loses.
UPDATE (11/27/2016): While investigating President-elect Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, we discovered that her organization, American Federation for Children, was also involved in defeating pro-voucher legislative candidates here in Florida (including Senator Dwight Bullard). Her Foundation lists their “successes” here, include Bullard’s opponent, Frank Artiles, Keith Perry and Anitere Flores.
It is also important to note that John Kirtley, the Founder and Chairman of Step Up for Children (the administrative agent for Florida’s voucher program) is also Ms. DeVos’ Vice Chairman at American Federation for Children. It looks like Ms. DeVos and Mr. Kirtley have been spending millions to influence Florida’s legislators for a very long time, with their organization bragging in 2011 that “one of the primary reasons we’ve been so successful (is) we spend about $1 million every other cycle in local political races, which in Florida is a lot of money. In House races and Senate races, we’re probably the biggest spender in local races.”
It appears LOTS of money has been used to influence the expansion of vouchers here in Florida, and much of it appears to have been spent by our incoming Secretary of Education.
Again we wonder why it is necessary to silence all dissent in order to pass education legislation?
On Election Night, public education in Florida was dealt a difficult blow.
State Senator (D-20), Dwight Bullard, lost his re-election bid and public education lost a crucial voice of dissent against the forces of privatization. Senator Bullard, a teacher from Miami-Dade, has consistently spoken out against bad legislation designed to harm teachers and destroy traditional public schools. Serving on Education committees, he forced a conversation on bills that might have otherwise gone undiscussed. As a rare Democrat in a sea of Republicans, rarely did he cast a tie-breaking vote but he forced policy makers to consider the impact pending legislation might have on teachers in the classroom. He shined a light on the realities of bad education policy. Apparently, that was something “the powers that be” would rather have kept hidden…
According to the Tampa Bay Times, “Florida Federation for Children, a group led by key backers of the state’s tax credit scholarship and similar programs, cheered late Tuesday its successful influence in” defeating Senator Bullard, among others that opposed vouchers. In the past, Florida Federation for Children used its influence to successfully oust local school board members in an, ultimately successful, attempt to influence the Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) participation in a lawsuit against the constitutionality of the voucher program. Not surprising, incoming House Speaker, Richard Corcoran, has made it clear that the privatization of public education through the expansion of “vouchers for all” will be a top priority in the upcoming session.
We wonder why it is necessary to silence all dissent in order to pass education legislation? Isn’t healthy debate essential for democracy?
Thank you, Senator Bullard, for representing public education concerns in Tallahassee. You could always smell the #accountabaloney and were not afraid to call it out. You are a true hero for Florida’s public schools and will be sorely missed. We hope there will be a real public school advocate willing to stand up and take your place and provide a true voice for public education in Tallahassee.