Parents rallied outside the Miami-Dade School Board building in downtown Miami on Friday afternoon in support of the controversial education bill HB 7069. Inside, the school district hosted a town hall meeting urging parents and teachers to oppose the bill.
Many of the roughly 20 parents and children holding signs and chanting outside the town hall meeting said they were most concerned about preserving the provision in HB 7069 that would expand a scholarship program for children with disabilities. If Gov. Rick Scott signs HB 7069 into law, the bill will allocate $30 million to expand the Gardiner Scholarship, a voucher program that helps students with disabilities pay for alternative education options.
"It's going to help my daughter do well in society," said Hans Haffner, whose 17-year-old daughter is autistic. Haffner relies on funding from Step Up for Students, the main organization that distributes the scholarships, to pay for his daughter's tuition at a private school that serves autistic children. "Step Up has really worked for her. We don't want that to go away," he said.
Eneidi Flores was also rallying in support of increased funding for the program. She uses the scholarship funds to pay for speech and behavior therapy for her three-year-old son, who is autistic. "If I take my child to a public school, they aren't going to be able to do all of that work," she said in Spanish. "A lot of mothers don't have a way to pay for therapies."
Meanwhile, the Miami-Dade school district was hosting the last of six meetings held this week to urge parents and teachers to contact Gov. Scott and ask him to veto HB 7069. The school district is concerned about several provisions in the bill, including one that would compel districts to share millions of dollars in local tax revenue earmarked for capital projects with charter schools.