January 19, 2016
Tallahassee greeted busloads of students, parents, and school faculty as they arrived today for what has been dubbed one of the largest school choice rallies ever held in the United States. The “Rally in Tally,” spearheaded by Florida Voices for Choices, showcased the value of the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship program, which provides scholarships for children in low-income families.
The Rally in Tally began with the triumphant cadence of thousands of sneaker-clad feet marching from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center a few blocks to a designated area near the state capitol building. Of the 10,000-plus attendees, approximately 2,000 Catholic school students, representing dioceses across Florida, traveled from near and far. Carrying poster board signs touting messages such as Put Kids First, Save Our Scholarships and #dropthesuit, the exuberance of the young participants was a living proclamation of the power of faith’s place in the public square and a moving testament to the importance of parental empowerment in education.
The rally was intended to be both a response to a lawsuit that questions the constitutionality of tax credit scholarships and a visible sign of the enormous impact school choice has in the lives of the students it serves, many of whom are minorities. Speakers included several religious leaders, school choice and civil rights advocates, former scholarship recipients, and the keynote speaker Martin Luther King III. Julio Fuentes, President and CEO of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), expressed the sentiments of many when he spoke of the “tens of thousands of doors of opportunity” that have provided hope for so many students and families.
Prior to the event, Dr. Kristy Swol, director of education/superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Venice in Florida, looked forward to the rally, anticipating, “Scholarship students who often do not have the opportunity to be heard, will have the chance to raise their voices in support of a program that is essential to and directly benefits their education.” Indeed they did, as program proponents clad in neon t-shirts packed the streets.
Martin Luther King III further expressed the need for school choice, declaring, “This is about freedom, the freedom to choose what’s best for your family. This is about options.”