School “choice” – Charlie Crist needs to help Democrats hold the line

Charlie_Crist_croppedYesterday, we discussed the need for Democrats to stay unified on the dangerous  school voucher proposal making its way through the Florida House. With the potential of a few Democrats wavering on this fundamental issue, perhaps a statement by Charlie Crist would make all the difference. Multiple progressive activists throughout the state have told me in recent days they think a strong announcement by Governor Crist opposing the legislation could potentially move any questionable Democrats into the “NAY” column.

The Democrats have for many years suffered from a leadership void in the state of Florida. This has allowed House  and Senate members to ad-lib issue positions and sell out progressive principles easily. The selection of Rep. Perry Thurston as Democratic Leader and Rep. Mark Pafford as Democratic Leader-Designee have been steps in the right direction towards establishing clear principles in the House Caucus on fundamental issues like school “choice.” Yet some Democrats who are less easy to corral by leadership need to hear from an authority on the outside, and progressives can think of no better person than Governor Crist on this score. 

Governor Crist’s own record on school “choice” is a poor one, but of course he was a Republican in those days. As Governor Crist Signed the Marco Rubio-Pushed Expansion of Corporate Tax Backed Voucher Program.  In 2008, Governor Crist signed a bill that implemented one of Marco Rubio’s “100 Ideas for Florida’s Future,” (also pushed by Jeb Bush) by increasing corporate tax credits for private school vouchers by $30 million ($88 million to $118 million).


On May 2, 2008 the Associated Press reported that, “The voucher bill would let an additional 6,000 students go to private school at public expense.”  The AFL-CIO said removing the funds from public schools was “deplorable.”  (Florida House, HB 653, Vote 1180, 5/2/2008; Marco Rubio, “100 Ideas for Florida’s Future,” 2007; Associated Press, 5/2/2008; Florida AFL-CIO 2008 Legislative Session Final Update)

Crist’s move to public-school defender and pragmatic Democrat on education issues will help him with the base of the party. This move could be a win-win for him as he would show his willingness to defend public schools and oppose voucher schemes and he could really help the party hold the line on the coming clash on the House floor.

Should Crist make the strong statement that is being suggested, his stock would increase dramatically with some activists who have been shunning his candidacy. But failure to step out on this issue will increase suspicions on the left as to genuine nature Crist’s conversion.  Crist’s Democratic Primary opponent, former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich has already spoken out strongly against this legislation.

Senator Rich said

“My position on vouchers has always been crystal clear, I opposed them when Republican Governor Jeb Bush introduced them. I opposed them when Republican Governor Charlie Crist expanded them. I oppose expanding them now. “

The shameless attempts of corporate interests backing school “choice” legislation to force this issue down the throats of Floridians is among the biggest issues the state faces. Governor Crist can be a hero in his new party if he does the right thing.  His past record is shameful on the matter but he has a real chance to begin to mend fences on this one.



  1. Good for courageous Nan Rich. Crist and Scott are not trustworthy.


  2. Thank you Nan Rich for a firm statement on this issue.


  3. I do not understand what you Liberal Democrats have against allowing children to choose their own school. Parents deserve the choice. It is ridiculous how you guys are so easily manipulated by the teachers union. It allows the Democrats to take these positions that are contrary to the interest of their constituents. Think about the black community. They are getting screwed by the public school system.

    But most of the Democratic leaders are people from suburban white communities. This is why the Democrats are completely out of touch on this issue. This issue could eventually move some African-Americans towards the Republicans.

    I applaud those African-American Democrats that buck the D party in order to help their constituents and children.


    1. Think!
      You obviously don’t understand or care about the value of public schools. The only choice they’re giving you is between a public school that will take every child, or a privatized system that gets to pick winners and losers.

      Public schools are the foundation of our democracy. The voters need to understand the real choice they’re being given. Unfortunately, too many of them have bought into the scam of the privatizers.


      1. The “pick winners and losers” aspect is quite important and is rarely talked about. It needs to be more of a central theme when it comes to this issue. Just because a student has a voucher doesn’t mean that any private school has to accept them. Therefore, all the A and B students will be in private schools with D and F student in public schools. It is a scam!


  4. Perfectly times article!


  5. Floridian · ·

    I am sure he will do the right thing. After all he is now a Democrat.


  6. […] reasons, be they campaign contributions, to curry favor with the House GOP leadership or because of a lack of Democratic leadership on this […]


  7. Patti Lynn · ·

    It will be interesting to see what Charlie does. After all, this election has nothing to do with being Governor, it only has to do with Charlie’s NEXT campaign. The Gay Marriage issue was easy…the whole country is for the change…same with the marijuana laws. School vouchers??? This requires cojones…something that Nan Rich has…Charlie doesn’t. Knowing that vouchers drain resources from public schools, but also knowing that there is a LOT of big money behind vouchers, (possible campaign contributors), he’s staying pretty quiet. That’s not what is needed in a leader.


  8. […] reasons, be they campaign contributions, to curry favor with the House GOP leadership or because of a lack of Democratic leadership on this issue.  When Soto broke with public school supporters the last day session in 2014 he […]


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