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FSBA, Step Up leaders seek common ground on vouchers



Leaders of the Florida School Boards Association and Step Up for Students, the organization that oversees Florida's voucher program, met early Thursday to talk about whether they might have some room for compromise.

The FSBA has sued the state over its laws implementing the corporate tax credit scholarship program that many call vouchers. Step Up has mounted a strong public relations campaign supporting the program and attacking the groups that filed the suit, including the FSBA. Some people associated with Step Up also supported successful campaigns to oust board members around the state that were considered the most opposed to the choice program.

FSBA executive director Wayne Blanton suggested the get-together.

"We needed to talk because we're on different pages," Blanton said. "If you're not discussing things with your adversaries, you can't reach an agreement."

He called the conversation a good first step in trying to work out differences that perhaps could lead to a different stance on the lawsuit.

Step Up president Doug Tuthill said the meeting was "great" and that he appreciated Blanton reaching out.

"He talked about the importance of dialogue," Tuthill said. "He thought we should have more structured communication. ... It's all good."

Both were hopeful the groups could find at least some common ground in their efforts to serve students and families, regardless of the status of the lawsuit.

Their discussion came against a backdrop of a small but growing number of board members around Florida that have opposed the lawsuit. Some planned to address the issue during the FSBA's general assembly later in the day.

"We'd like to get the message out that not ALL school board members are in lock step with the leadership of FSBA... particularly as it relates to this lawsuit," Seminole board member Amy Lockhart said in a text message. "We almost feel the need for a 'minority report.'"

Blanton acknowledged the pushback, but also noted that the FSBA directors unanimously supported joining the lawsuit and later declined to reconsider.

[Last modified: Thursday, December 4, 2014 3:10pm]


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