Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Feeney's Tough Talk Sets Tone for Battles on Education Issues

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Feeney's Tough Talk Sets Tone for Battles on Education Issues

Article excerpt

With battles looming over education funding and school vouchers, House Speaker Tom Feeney went on the offensive last week.

The targets? Just about everything Feeney and his Republican allies see as threats to their ideas for education reform.

Among the targets: "Educrats," "union bosses," school board members and newspaper editorial pages. Feeney even got in jabs at Democratic leaders Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson and Bill Clinton -- all in one sentence.

In a speech to House Republicans on Wednesday, Feeney tried to gird his troops for what are sure to be noisy fights during the upcoming session.

House committees have moved forward with two bills that would expand the concept of school vouchers. One would offer taxpayer-funded vouchers to children who attend overcrowded public schools, while the other would give tax credits to corporations that help pay for low income students to attend private schools.

But Democrats, politically powerful teachers' unions and school districts have vowed to fight the plans during the legislative session that starts March 6. Those groups argue, in part, that the bills would strip money that could be used for public schools.

Also looming is a fight about school funding, as the state faces a tight budget year. Democrats are hammering Republicans about the possibility of making tax cuts with money that could be used for schools.

Feeney told House members that the GOP-controlled Legislature has increased school funding during the past few years, raised academic standards and given more educational choices to parents.

He pitted the GOP against the so-called "educrats" -- short for education bureaucrats -- and "union bosses."

"The bottom line is, these are the status quo apologists," said Feeney, an Oviedo Republican.

In touting the tax credits and vouchers, he also said low income parents want access to private schools, just like rich people have. …

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