The 2020 legislative session is fastly approaching and the state’s Black Caucus released the priorities it would like to succeed in a news conference this week.
The caucus, which includes 21 House members and six senators, will focus on the importance of education in their communities.
“We believe in investing in public education,” said Rep. Bruce Antone, an Orlando Democrat who serves as the ranking minority member of the House Education Committee. “And we also believe in school choice.” The reference to school choice shows support of the state’s controversial voucher system.
Antone referred to offerings in both magnet and charter schools. Both receive public funds and are subject to the same accountability requirements as public schools.
In the past, the Black Caucus has split over its backing of expanded tax credit scholarships and vouchers, with some Democrats among its members joining with the Republicans to vote for bills that give more choices to families in the areas they represent. Last year, five black Democratic lawmakers were acknowledged by a pro-choice education foundation for their votes on issues including vouchers.
Also on their agenda is more support to three of Florida’s historically black colleges and universities — Bethune-Cookman, Florida Memorial and Edward Waters — which have all faced challenges.
“They have done so much for our community, and we need to be there with them at this time of need,” said Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Pompano Beach.
Other caucus objectives include protecting voting rights, affordable housing, state Supreme Court diversity and gun violence.
Caucus vice chairman, Sen Bobby Powell of West Palm Beach acknowledged that their agenda is broad and that they may not always agree on everything. But they plan to stand together in an attempt to reach the goals they settled upon as a group.
“As a caucus,” Powell said, “we will be unified. … In order to move forward, we will remain unified.”
Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, says the Florida Legislative Black Caucus will prioritize both public education and school choice during the 2020 Florida session