More than 50 people representing Light Christian Academy traveled to Tallahassee to support school choice and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.
OCOEE Tallahassee turned neon yellow for a day as more than 11,000 parents, teachers and students — wearing bright shirts emblazoned with the words “#DropTheSuit” — including 55 from Light Christian Academy in Ocoee — rallied Jan. 19 at the capital in support of school choice.
Among those were more than 50 people representing Light Christian Academy in Ocoee, who went to make their voices heard at Rally in Tally 2016. Even event keynote speaker Martin Luther King III joined in on praising the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, which provides low-income students with various education options outside of public schools, including private and charter schools.
The annual event was especially important this year in the wake of a lawsuit headed by the Florida Education Association that challenges the constitutionality of the tax-credit scholarships, arguing that they take state funds away from a quality public education system.
Thomas Odom, lead pastor of Ocoee Church of God and principal of LCA, said rally organizers were “incredible,” having provided neon “Drop the Suit” T-shirts, buses, poster-making materials and gift cards for meals to those involved.
“We went to join arm and arm with those others to show we’re in support with them, and to ask the teacher’s union to drop the suit,” Odom said. “If (the suit) does get to the Florida Supreme Court, we ask them to dismiss it.”
The scholarships work by providing dollar-for-dollar tax credits to businesses that donate to organizations such as Step Up for Students and the AAA Scholarship Foundation, which fund the scholarships.
Step Up’s website indicates that the tax-credit scholarships served nearly 78,000 students in close to 1,600 private schools throughout the state for the 2015-16 school year. And of LCA’s 66 students, 76% — or about 50 — are able to attend the school through the scholarship.
Jeanine Figueroa has two children at LCA, one with ADD. She and her husband tried multiple education options to find the best fit for them, which ended up being LCA. She supported the rally because the tax-credit program allowed them to choose the school.
“With their individual learning plans (and) excellent hands-on administration, we found the right fit for our children,” she said. “Had it not been for the tax-credit scholarship we would never be able to afford to do so. This scholarship affords thousands of families the same opportunity.”
According to Florida Voices for Choices, 1.5 million children in the state are attending their school of choice. The 78,000 of these who are able to attend thanks to the scholarship would otherwise have to attend public schools.
Essie Law is a grandmother to three children who are students at LCA and also attended the rally.
“I like it better for them (at LCA) than when they were in public school,” she said. “I love for them being at a Christian school because there was so much going on in public schools that they didn’t need to see or be a part of.”
Figueroa said marching in front of the state capitol and the Supreme Court building was a patriotic moment moment for them, knowing they made history, as the largest gathering in support of education in Florida to date.
“It felt so amazing and I was blessed to be able to have been a part of this experience and have our voices heard,” Figueroa said.
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].