Word for Word: Florida Senate sponsor of SB 202 Corey Simon talks about his education choice experiences as a student and a parent

State Sen. Corey Simon, left, with Hera Varmah, a graduate who benefited from the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. Varmah, who now serves on the communications team at the American Federation for Children, spoke in support of SB 202.

Editor’s note: When state Sen. Corey Simon. R- Tallahassee, explained SB 202 last week at the Senate Education Committee on Pre-12, opponents expressed typical concerns. Among them: Would such a large expansion of education choice to all students be the death knell for public schools?  Simon, whose bill includes measures to loosen regulations on public schools, assured them that public school supporters have nothing to fear. He also relayed his personal experiences with education choice as a student and as a parent that included both options. Here are excerpts from his remarks. You can watch the committee meeting in its entirety here

We get so far down the weeds of public versus private…Let me say this, the vast majority, because our public schools are so well managed and do such a great job, will chose the public option. What we’re saying through this bill is that public school is also a choice.

And so, it’s not always the private school that’s the best school for that child who is growing up in an area that’s not conducive to learning.

Personally, for me when my mother made that choice, back when I was younger, before it was a legal choice, it wasn’t to for me to try and get into some private school, what it was was about getting me into a better public school.

We’re not trying to do away with public school in this bill. What we’re saying is that we want public schools to be an option for our parents.

From a personal standpoint, I had a son that was in private school here. And, for years there were things that I didn’t like about the private school. And then it became my choice. After ninth grade, I finally got fed up, and I didn’t like the direction, and so I moved my dollars and my child to another school. Now, he went to a public school for a year. And in that public school, we saw things that we liked; we saw things we didn’t like. And then we saw how our son was able to navigate those things.

At that point, we made another choice, and said, ‘No I want my son to be in a smaller environment, a Christian school,’ and that’s what we chose as parents, so we sat down with the schools that were on our list, and we said ‘Can you accommodate this; What’s your belief system;  What are these things that go into making my child the young man that I want him to be and what he hopes to be?’ That’s the discussions we were having; that’s the discussions that parents are going to have as they look at making private school a choice. If they can’t find what they’re looking for in our private schools, if accommodations can’t be made in our private schools, then our public schools are an option and it’s still a choice.

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BY Lisa Buie

Lisa Buie is senior reporter for NextSteps. The daughter of a public school superintendent, she spent more than a dozen years as a reporter and bureau chief at the Tampa Bay Times before joining Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, where she served for nearly five years as marketing and communications manager. She lives with her husband and their teenage son, who has benefited from education choice.