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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Which Democrats did the Foundation for Florida’s Future rate well this year?

Each spring, Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future grades state lawmakers for their votes on key education issues that came up in the most recent legislative session.

Since the group strongly promotes the school choice and accountability model first implemented in Bush's tenure, its rating of the Republicans usually isn't too surprising. Unless they vote against a critical measure the Foundation backed, the R's generally earn A's, with a few B's sprinkled in.

Likewise, most Democrats — who frequently fight to limit state testing and scale back charter schools and tax credit scholarships — fall in the D and F range.

(Yes, the organization issues A-F marks, just like it encourages for the schools.)

What's most interesting about the annual report card is which lawmakers go the other way.

And this year, just one Democratic senator received an A and landed on the group's Honor Roll, Sen. Bill Montford of Tallahassee. Montford regularly gains good marks from the group for his knowledge and collaboration, but this time his rating is notable because he was the sole Democrat to support the education omnibus package HB 7055, which narrowly passed the chamber.

"On the Senate floor, Sen. Montford effectively made the case for supporting this year's major K-12 education legislation and how it would impact students and families," the group wrote.

Montford did so despite the vocal opposition of his other job constituency — he runs the state superintendent's association — along with other advocacy groups such as the PTA. Had he voted the other way, and Sen. Daphne Campbell returned to oppose the bill (she was in the Capitol but didn't press her button), HB 7055 could have died.

At the same time, the Foundation rated Senate Education chairwoman Dorothy Hukill with a C — the lowest of all Senate Republicans, and worse than four other Democrats (Campbell, Lauren Book, Kevin Rader and Darryl Rouson).

In the more partisan House, four Democrats earned an Honor Roll spot from the Foundation. Just one of those received an A.

Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, proved a dependable vote on choice bills, backing the "Hope Scholarship" for bullied students when most in her caucus vehemently fought against it. She also sponsored the House bill to require all public schools to post "In God We Trust" in a prominent spot, a measure that found the African-American pastor surrounded by white male Republican supporters during House debate.

"Representative Kimberly Daniels was one of the Florida House's most outspoken proponents of educational opportunity, often sharing her experiences as a parent as well as the experiences of many of her constituents," the group wrote. "While sharing her passion for empowering parents with high-quality choices, Representative Daniels often focused on the positive, lifelong impact these choices have for students."

The Foundation also gave credit to Democratic Reps. Wengay Newton, Larry Lee Jr. and Katie Edwards-Walpole for their backing of a new Reading Scholarship program, among other initiatives.

Only seven other House Democrats rated above a D. Just four House Republicans scored lower than an A — Rene Plasencia (a teacher), Kathleen Peters, Sam Killebrew and Tom Goodson. They got B's.

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