Democrat joins Republican Gov. Rick Scott at charter school visit

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s visit to a new charter school yesterday was not only noteworthy because it reaffirmed his commitment to parental school choice, but because of who was by his side: former state Sen. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat now running for Congress.

“Throughout my 28 years in the Legislature I always wanted education reform for our young people. I had the opportunity to tour the state on many occasions to look into what was happening with our public schools. And I was always excited about the opportunity to help with public charter schools in the state,” Lawson said after the visit to Governors Charter Academy, a K-8 school run by Charter Schools USA. “This is a great addition, not only to the state but to Tallahassee. And we have kids here that I’m really excited about. I’ve never seen kids act so well with all this media, so it’s already starting here. This is the kind of thing we want to improve education. That’s what it’s all about, whether you’re Democrat or Republican, about how we train our future leaders, because they have to take our place.”

Lawson was among the first black lawmakers in Florida who broke ranks with traditional allies to vote for vouchers and tax credit scholarships.

In response to a reporter’s question, Scott also suggested support for school choice is not at odds with support for traditional public schools – a position taken by many choice backers that is often overlooked.

“What parents want and what’s good for our kids is more choice,” Scott said. “I have daughters … My daughters learned differently. So I’m glad we had the opportunity to pick schools. So I think for parents, the right thing is choice. Now I think as Jon (referring to Jonathan Hage, president and CEO of Charter Schools USA) said, we’ve got to make sure all of our schools do well. We have to measure the student achievement. We have got to hold all of our schools accountable, which we’re doing here in the state. And I think as Jon said, charter schools should be at a higher standard. It creates more choice. It creates competition. They’re going to have some ideas that maybe other schools can use. And I’m sure they’re taking ideas out of traditional public schools.”

More coverage here and here.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at

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