A new Florida advocacy group is pushing for more school choice, as well as term limits for school board members and charter school independence.
The School Choice Movement, which launched in Tallahassee Wednesday, is led by three former school board members, including Jacksonville’s Scott Shine.
In an interview Thursday with WJCT News, Shine said school choice leads to academic achievement.
“When parents and students own the decision about what school they go to, it has a very positive and engaging affect on how well the student will do,” he said.
To promote that, the School Choice Movement will push for more scholarships and funding for transportation to allow more students to attend the school of their choice. Florida’s scholarship programs have come under fire by traditional public school advocates, who dislike that they divert education dollars to private and religious schools, which don’t have to operate under the same standards as public schools.
Florida already has one of the nation’s highest rates of privately run charter schools, as well as strong support for school choice in the state Legislature. The election of Gov. Ron DeSantis and his appointment of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran gave the school choice movement an additional boost.
One of the School Choice Movement’s priorities is setting term limits for school board members.
Duval County already has an eight-year term limit that voters put in place through a ballot referendum in 1992.
Shine is joined by former Indian County School Board member Shawn Frost and former Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds.
“Where districts raise roadblocks to competition, or legislators seek to make it difficult to participate, we will work on the side of the parents to open up opportunity,” said Donalds, who chairs the organization, in a news release.
Donalds also recently served on Gov. DeSantis’ 40-person transitional advisory panel on education, which recommended expanding school choice.
Another policy change the trio want to make is what they call the independence of charter schools. Currently, new charter schools need approval from local school boards to open. This, Shine said, politicizes the process. He said School Choice Movement wants to leave that responsibility to the state.
“We’re trying to centralize that, to take the politics out of the local school board and to provide a more uniform program for approving those,” he said.