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Florida House cuts one education committee, and one vocal Democrat from the fray

House leaders say the move is intended to streamline policy debates.
Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, offers a progressive voice on the Florida House PreK-12 Quality committee. [The Florida House]
Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, offers a progressive voice on the Florida House PreK-12 Quality committee. [The Florida House]
Published Aug. 30, 2019

With committee weeks just two weeks off, the Florida House on Friday announced a revamped committee structure with one notable difference for education policy watchers.

The PreK-12 Quality subcommittee chaired by Rep. Byron Donalds was eliminated. Donalds remains on the overarching Education Committee.

“It was the consensus that the two subcommittees were hearing similar presentations and considering complimentary or similar legislation that could be better focused and debated in a single subcommittee,” said Fred Piccolo, spokesman for House Speaker Jose Oliva.

The PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee chaired by Rep. Ralph Massullo will take on the new role. It was expanded from 15 to 18 members, to make room for some of the representatives from the Quality subcommittee.

Rep. Anna Eskamani was not among them.

The fiery liberal Democrat from Orlando has made no bones about her passion for education issues since arriving in Tallahassee. She also has not held back in her criticism of ideas coming from the Republican leadership, such as allowing teachers to carry weapons in schools as guardians.

Neither has she shied away from proposing legislation that aren’t on the top of conservatives’ list, such as adding protections for LBGTQ students into school voucher laws.

Eskamani expressed dismay at the change, which leaves her off all education committees for the next session.

“I can only assume my strong voice on education issues led to my removal,” she said. “Of course, that doesn’t mean I will stop fighting for a strong public education system that leaves no one behind.”

Other Democrats with similar voting records to Eskamani’s, but who were less outspoken, remained on the committees. They included Rep. Geraldine Thompson of Orange County and Rep. Jennifer Webb of Pinellas County.