This week, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., spoke on the Senate floor in support of U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s , R-SC, “Congressional Review Act,” which would “undo Joe Biden’s attempts to restrict school choice for parents by nullifying the Department of Education’s new burdensome requirements on charter schools.”
Scott said the following:
“I’d like to thank my colleague from South Carolina for all of his work to promote school choice. I’ve been proud to partner with him each year to co-sponsor the National School Choice Week Resolution and promote the maximum amount of educational choice for parents.
“Since I’ve been in Washington, I’ve noticed how many different school options are available for families in the area. Public schools, charter schools, private schools, religious schools, homeschool, co-ops. There are all kinds of options for parents and their children here. D.C. is an example of a place where school choice has helped everyone, as government-funded schools have generally failed.
“Of course, Washington, D.C. is also where our nation’s political elite and their children reside. It’s where diplomats from around the world come and send their kids to the school of their choice.
“Bureaucrats, politicians, and wealthy parents have all the choice in the world to send their kids to get a great education. But why should that choice only be available to the elite political class? Why is that teachers’ unions and Democrat politicians want to fight school choice and keep students from middle and lower-class families in failing schools?
“It’s a perfect example of how the swamp works – they’ll give every advantage to their own kids, while pushing the working class down. The elites have always had school choice, and like my colleague from South Carolina, I simply want to extend that choice to every family.
“During my eight years as Governor of Florida, I was a proud champion of school choice and charter schools. I have long believed that parents, not the government, know what is best for their children.
“Near the end of my time as Governor, Florida had 653 charter schools operating across the state. More than one in four K through 12 public school students in Florida chose a school other than the one to which they were assigned. We were ranked third in the nation for our number of charter schools and the number of students enrolled in our charter schools.
“That competition helped everyone, including our public-school system. When I was leaving, we ranked fourth in the nation for K through 12 student achievement. In other words, our push for maximum choice, helped our students in all of our schools get ahead. That didn’t happen overnight, of course. We had to work at it.
“For example, I worked to expand access to Florida’s tax credit scholarship program. This tax credit encourages voluntary contributions from corporate donors to scholarship funding organizations that then award scholarships to students from low-income families so they can attend private schools or get help transporting them to a public school in another school district. During my eight years, the number of kids benefitting from that scholarship program grew from 40,000 to 108,000. 60,000 more students were able to attend a school that better met their needs because we gave them that choice.
“Similarly, in 2016, I signed legislation creating open enrollment in Florida. That bill allowed more than 280,000 students to attend any public school in the state regardless of their zip code.
“In 2011, I signed legislation to expand access to scholarships for students with disabilities so they could attend a public or private school of their choice.
“And in 2017, I signed legislation creating the Schools of Hope Program. It established high-quality educational options for students attending persistently low performing public schools. Instead of attending the lower-performing school, we drew in charter school networks that had a proven track record of operating high-performing charter schools in underserved communities. Because we offered them increased autonomy and flexibility, and gave them access to grants and low-interest facility loans, these charter schools were able to better serve Florida’s neediest students.
“Add to that, I signed legislation to give every student access to virtual learning, with 428,000 students taking advantage of that program in the 2017-2018 school year. That number was up by 312,000 students compared to 10 years earlier – a 369% increase. Parents could use Florida Virtual School to supplement what was happening in person at school, have a hybrid set-up with home school, or do completely online learning – whatever best suited their child’s needs.
“In Florida, school choice isn’t just for the elites – it’s for everyone, because every family deserves the chance to send their child to the school that best meets their needs. Whether it was virtual school, a private school, a religious school, homeschool, a charter school, or a public school in a different district – I fought to give kids the best opportunity to get a quality education. And the best part about it, this kind of choice and competition among schools benefitted everyone. It helped all of our schools, including our public schools and neighborhood schools, to improve.
“In October, a team of researchers from Northwestern University, UC-Davis and Emory studied the outcomes of Florida students who remained in public schools in the 2016–17 school year, the same time we were expanding school choice. I’ll read you what they concluded:
‘We find broad and growing benefits for students at local public schools as the school-choice program scales up. In particular, students who attend neighborhood schools with higher levels of market competition have lower rates of suspensions and absences and higher test scores in reading and math. And while our analysis reveals gains for virtually all students, we find that those most positively affected are students with the greatest barriers to school success, including those with low family incomes and less-educated mothers.’
“In other words, school choice helps students of poor and working-class families, like the one I grew up in.
“I was born to a single mom with an 11th grade education, and never met my birth father. My adopted dad never had more than a 6th-grade education. We were poor and didn’t have much to brag about. We lived in public housing and moved around a lot. But my mom pushed me to work hard in school and get a good education. And by God’s grace I was able to live the American dream.
“That’s why we’re here… Because school choice shouldn’t only be for the elites, it should be for everyone.”
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