School Choice: Faith Leaders Support Scholarships
By Linda T. Fortenberry, Ph.D.
Special to the Outlook
Faith and community leaders in Tallahassee came together Sept. 15, at Blue Collar Restaurant for a Faith Leaders Roundtable Luncheon to rally support for Florida’s tax credit scholarship program. The scholarship program is administered by nonprofits such as Step Up For Students. This year, Florida’s tax credit scholarship program serves about 77,000 low-income students statewide. In Leon County, 19 schools this year, serve more than 500 scholarship students.
The 14-year-old school choice program was sued in August 2014, by the Florida Teacher’s Union, Florida NAACP and other groups. Leon County Circuit Judge, George Reynolds, ruled that the Florida Teacher’s Union (Florida Education Association), Florida School Boards Association and other plaintiffs did not have standing to proceed in a suit that sought to dismantle the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program. They are keeping the suit alive with an appeal.
Participants at the faith leaders’ roundtable included Rev. R. B. Holmes, pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, and leader of Bethel Christian Academy and Rev. Lamar Simmons, pastor of Love and Faith Community Church, and leader of Symphony Seven School of Arts and Technology. Both schools serve a number of tax credit scholarship students that could be adversely impacted if the appeal succeeds.
During the luncheon, Rev. Holmes spoke passionately about the program and the opportunities it offers to low-income children.
“Since the civil rights movement of the 1960’s,” he said, “there has not been a more pressing and important issue facing the Black community than this pending lawsuit to prohibit low-income and primarily minority children from receiving the best education they can.”