Next steps logo

Howard Fuller: Parental choice fight in Florida is national issue

If its import wasn’t apparent already, parental choice leader Howard Fuller said Florida should be a national battleground after the Florida School Boards Association, Florida Education Association and other groups filed suit Aug. 28 to kill the nation’s largest private school choice program.

“First off, we got to fight, and we need to make Florida a national issue,” Fuller, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, told redefinED this week. “It isn’t just a Florida issue. It has to be a national issue, for all of us who care, not just about parental choice as a policy, but care about 70,000 poor kids not having the opportunity to go to the schools of their choice. So we need to become very focused on that.”

The suit is targeting the 13-year-old tax credit scholarship program, which is serving more than 67,000 students this fall. All are low-income, and nearly 70 percent are black or Hispanic. The program is administered by scholarships funding organizations like Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.

Fuller said the suit should be a lesson to school choice supporters that they must be ever vigilant.

“They just told us, we don’t care. We don’t care. And we’re going to continue to try to protect our power,” he said, referring to the plaintiffs.

“And that’s why I keep trying to explain to people, this is not a college debate,” he continued. “This is a street fight. And you cannot approach a street fight quoting from a book. You got to understand how to wage this fight. And we all need to get focused on this fight in Florida, because it is critical. So I’m ready … let’s go. Because I’m frankly worried about losing that decision. Because it will not be decided on legal grounds. It will be decided on political grounds, being masked as a legal decision.”

Fuller’s remarks came during a Skype interview about his just-released autobiography, “No Struggle, No Progress.” To hear his remarks about Florida in full, click on the video above. We’ll be posting more from the entire interview in coming days.

Avatar photo

BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at