NAACP and teachers union wrong to fight school choice

Linzi Morris


School choice empowers parents, like me, to choose which school educates our children, which enables them to maximize their full potential and gives them the tools to succeed in this ever-changing world.

Fortunately for my family, Florida created a scholarship program, run by the nonprofit Step Up For Students, to open up more quality options for economically disadvantaged families. Unfortunately, the Florida’s teacher union and the state chapter of the NAACP have repeatedly gone to court to eliminate the program and evict 95,000 students now attending private schools throughout the state.

After having their case tossed out twice, the teacher’s union and NAACP are now appealing to the Florida Supreme Court. This week, the state and the scholarship parents fighting the lawsuit filed their response. I am one of 15 parent intervenors.

I’m particularly disappointed in the NAACP. Where they once fought the system to empower parents, today they stand by the system to fight parents.

More than 70 percent of scholarship students are children of color, and more than half live in single-parent homes. The average student on scholarship lives in a household that is just 4.4 percent above poverty. The average student on scholarship also struggled in public school, but is now making good progress in the schools their parents chose. I can’t understand why the NAACP wants to take education opportunities away from them.

I know the NAACP wants public schools to excel. I do too. What I don’t understand is how they think my children harm public schools by attending a private school that works better for them.

All of my children attended public school at some point in their education. I am not anti-public school. I simply believe parents should be able to choose where their child goes to school regardless of their financial situation. Some parents choose public schools. Some parents choose, and can afford, private schools, while others need financial aid. Others choose to homeschool. The common theme is we all have a choice.

All of my children currently attend or graduated from middle school at Academy Prep in Tampa. They were constantly pushed to new educational heights, exposed to music, art, the environment, various professional fields and the list goes on. Academy Prep also mentored them on how to be dignified young men and women.

Now two of my boys attend the University of South Florida. One is studying to be an engineer and the other wants to be a doctor. They no longer just dream of success. They are making it a reality. My other four children aren’t far behind.

The groups attacking the scholarship tell people the money for the program comes from public funds. But this isn’t true. Funding comes from private donations where donors get a tax credit for their contribution.

They also tell people the scholarship drains money from public schools. But this isn’t true either. Every study that’s looked at the financial impact makes this clear. And both courts that looked at the lawsuit dismissed it because the teachers union and the NAACP couldn’t back up their charge that the program was hurting public schools.

Even if the program was publicly funded, I believe it is the right of every parent and child to utilize any and all educational resources available to them. School choice is the right to choose what, when, where and how my child is educated. Where that education occurs – public or private – shouldn’t matter. It is not an “us against them” struggle with the public school system. It is a choice.

Whatever choice each Florida family makes is the right choice. I choose the Step Up scholarship for my family. The teachers union and NAACP should respect my choice, and stop trying to take it away.

Linzi Morris lives in Riverview.

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