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Election altered balance of Florida’s school choice debate

The state representatives who lost their seats last week had more in common than their political party.

Three of the six Democrats were classroom teachers who supported the teachers union — and who opposed plans to expand the school voucher program.

Voucher advocates say they invested "substantial" resources to topple the three incumbents — former state Reps. Karen Castor Dentel of Maitland, Mark Danish of Tampa and Carl Zimmermann of Palm Harbor — as well as former state Rep. Joe Saunders of Orlando.

Their political committee, the Florida Federation for Children, spent $1.31 million on political races in Florida in 2013 and 2014, records show.

It is hard to tell whether the investment tipped the balance in the four House races, but one thing is certain: The incumbents' absence will be noticeable when the Legislature convenes.

"The Dems lost their entire education team," said Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, R-Trinity.

What's more, observers say voucher expansion is likely to be on the fast track when lawmakers return to Tallahassee.

"They have the House, the Senate and the governor clearly supporting it," said veteran lobbyist Tom Cerra, who represents the Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards and the Miami-Dade school district.

Read more here.