NE Florida Candidates Push for Choice in Education; Bean, Duggan, Weinstein Propose Ideas in Race for State Senate Seat

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Dixon

Education policy has been one of Florida's highest-profile issues in recent years.

Now three Republican candidates for Northeast Florida's state Senate District 4 - Wyman Duggan, Aaron Bean and Mike Weinstein - propose injecting additional choice into the system.

But there are caveats.

"The biggest thing is I would give more parental choice in schools," Bean said. "I think the best thing we can do is get parents more involved."

He said that he backs many of the choice-centered reforms offered by former Gov. Jeb Bush, one of Florida's most prominent education reformers.

"I have talked to him and met with him, and talked about reform issues with his policy director, Pat Lavesque," he said. "I'm very supportive."

Bush, who has endorsed Bean, advocated for a proposal dubbed the "parent trigger" bill in the last session. It would have allowed parents of students attending a poorly performing public school to vote to convert it to a charter school. The bill drew heated opposition from teachers' unions.

"I voted against it because I thought it would potentially put neighbors versus neighbors," Weinstein said.

Weinstein was one of just two House Republicans to oppose the bill. It died in the Senate on a heated 20-20 vote.

Duggan, a lawyer, says keeping all options on the table - including a "parent trigger" bill - is the best way to spur needed innovation in education.

"It puts the parents in charge," he said. "I see nothing wrong with that."

He says that a look at even the most basic aspects of the education system could provide needed changes.

"The system continues to be based on a model and on assumptions that essentially have their basis in 19th-century agrarian America," he said.

Duggan would like a greater focus on the skilled trades. …


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