Bipartisan School Choice Champions Claim Victory in Florida Primary Races

Aug 15, 2012, 17:37 ET from American Federation for Children

Large majority of supporters of educational options claim victory in Sunshine State election results

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Aug. 15, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A bipartisan coalition of more than 20 candidates who support expanded educational opportunities for Florida families were victorious in House and Senate primary races last night, reaffirming voters' commitment to parental choice and setting the stage for strong support for choice in next year's legislature.

The American Federation for Children—the nation's voice for school choice—praised the numerous victors, who spanned all ideological and geographical lines in their commitment to standing up for Florida kids. In total, the Florida Federation for Children—an electioneering organization connected to AFC—did electioneering communications in 18 races in which candidates declared victory or are poised to do so. Ten House Republicans, six House Democrats, and two Senate Republicans who support school choice won these competitive primary races last night. Three races are still undecided.

Among the most notable of last night's Democratic winners were Bruce Antone and Bobby Powell, who won open seat contests in Orlando and Palm Beach County, respectively. Because their primaries were open to all parties, both Anton and Powell are considered State representatives-elect. On the Republican side, Rep. Kellie Stargel and Rep. John Legg—two longtime parental choice advocates—won primary races for the state Senate.

John F. Kirtley, the vice chairman of the American Federation for Children, noted that last night's showing by Democrats illustrates the growingly broad nature of the coalition in favor of educational opportunities.

"Yesterday's victories confirm the trend that has been happening in Florida and across the country for years, and that's increasingly strong bipartisan support for giving kids access to the educational opportunities they all deserve," Kirtley said. "We look forward to seeing even more victories in the general election in order to form the strongest coalition of school choice supporters heading into next year."

A number of candidates are facing a recount. Among them are Democratic Reps. Mack Bernard of Palm Beach County and Rep. John Patrick Julien (D) of Miami.  Republican House candidate Cary Pigman of Highland County also faces a likely recount.

Last night's victories are the latest sign of the remarkable growth in parental choice that has taken place in the Sunshine State in 2012.  Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers passed legislation that increases the cap on donations under the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, which will enroll nearly 50,000 students this year. There are also nearly 520 charter schools in Florida, an increase of almost 60 schools over the previous school year. Much of yesterday's electoral success can be attributed to the partnership between the charter schools and private school choice movement in to support candidates who favor education reform.

The state is also home to the McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities program, which had nearly 23,000 participants last year.


SOURCE American Federation for Children