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Improving public education, by choice.

By Travis Pillow

Florida State Sen. Darryl Rouson went to Catholic schools from first grade through college. He wants low-income families from his district to have the same opportunity. He’s sent his own children to public schools, so he wants Florida’s public school system to be as strong as possible.

During a podcast interview with Denisha Merriweather, a Florida school choice alum now studying to become a social worker, Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, explains how his life experience has informed his view that supporting school choice and supporting public education are not in conflict.

“I want a high-quality, fully funded public education, but at the same time, I do not believe that one size fits all,” he says.

Rouson joined the Senate after a narrow win in a hard-fought Democratic primary. Education issues figured prominently in the race. His district encompasses the segregated neighborhoods of South St. Petersburg, an area whose academic struggles were chronicled in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series by the Tampa Bay Times.

While serving in the state House, he pushed for extra funding for reading programs in the affected schools. And he’s said the issues in his community prompted him to seek a spot on the education appropriations subcommittee.

In 2010, Rouson joined other House Democratic colleagues who showed an unprecedented level of bipartisan support for legislation that expanded Florida’s tax credit scholarship program.

He says it’s happening slowly, but more members of his party are coming around to the idea that they can support improvements in the public schools while also supporting programs that give low-income and working-class students access to private schools.“

I want public schools to be competitive while being collaborative,” he says. “Parents ought to be able to choose a good public education.”

Click here to listen to the podcast.

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