Once again, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future has graded lawmakers based on their support of what it deems “student-centered” measures — most generally school choice initiatives bolstering charter schools and vouchers, as well as other conservative education concepts such as performance-based teacher pay.
See the Foundation’s list of legislative highlights for more details about its favored bills in 2019.
Each year, the most interesting thing about the report card is how many Republicans didn’t meet the organization’s mark, and how many Democrats did.
This time around, the number of Democrats that supported the Foundation’s agenda hit a high — even as the proposals pushed for more extreme ideas such as taxpayer funded vouchers.
Eight Democrats in the House, and one in the Senate, appeared on the group’s Honor Roll, those considered to have gone “above and beyond” in support of the agenda. Two — Reps. James Bush III of Miami and Kimberly Daniels of Jacksonville — received an A-plus grade for their votes.
A year ago, Daniels was one of only four House Democrats to land on the Honor Roll to earn an A. The others received B’s.
The other two House Democrats to get A’s in 2019 come from the Tampa Bay area — Rep. Susan Valdes of Tampa, who voted with the group 95 percent of the time, and Rep. Wengay Newton of St. Petersburg, who backed the group’s priorities 91 percent of the time.
Valdes came under criticism during her campaign for office because of her views on charter schools and the financial support that charter groups gave to her. Her votes for pro-charter legislation gained her positive notice from the Bush foundation, even as some House Republicans grew weary of her posturing on other issues such as education funding during the session.
Other Democrats on the Honor Roll were Reps. Ramon Alexander of Tallahassee, Delores Hogan Johnson of Fort Pierce, Al Jacquet of Lantana, and Jennifer Webb of Gulfport, and Sen. Bill Montford of Tallahassee.
Overall, the Foundation found more support for its positions this year than a year earlier on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers.
In the Senate, all Democrats received a C or better from the foundation with two getting a B, while all Republicans were handed an A or A-plus.
In the more divided House, all Republicans but one — Rep. Ralph Massullo, who chaired an education committee — earned an A or A-plus. Massullo still got a B, backing the agenda 89 percent of the time. Eighteen Democrats received an F and eleven got a D.