Motion to Intervene: Parents of Children with Special Needs Fight Back Against Union Lawsuit

Jul 31 • 704 Views • View Comments

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FFEE Flexibility and Freedom

Motion to Intervene:
Parents of Children with Special Needs
Fight Back Against Union Lawsuit

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, six Florida parents of students with special needs announced they are filing a motion to intervene on behalf of all parents who would be impacted by the Florida Education Association’s challenge to Senate Bill 850. These parents want the opportunity to defend the new law, which creates Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSAs). Children with unique abilities can use PLSAs to better customize their education with the combination of school, services or therapies that best fits their learning needs. As of this morning and since the process opened less than two weeks ago, Florida families have submitted close to 1,800 applications in the hopes their children will benefit from this new educational choice. The following families are represented by the Goldwater Institute, which has defended similar school choice programs nationwide: Donna Berman of Port Orange, John & Mary Kurnik of Tampa, Julie Kleffel of Longwood, Melissa Ward of Jacksonville, Ashli McCall of Tallahassee and Alisha Sloan of Pensacola, all special needs families opposing the FEA.

Video profiles on Florida families opposing the union lawsuit.

“It’s like somebody finally took an interest in those of us who have been falling through the cracks,” said John Kurnik, a professor at St. Petersburg College whose 12-year-old son, also named John, has autism.

Kurnik said his son needs speech therapy, ABA therapy, a math tutor and other assistance. But because of limited financial resources, the family is forced to triage which services it can provide, and when.

“Now we have an opportunity to provide more for John, and to go that much further,” added Kurnik. “It’s giving us a whole lot of hope that we can help him reach his full potential.”

Because of the costs associated with an array of recommended therapies, Ashli McCall’s son Emmil was not able to receive early intervention for his autism. But because of the PLSA, McCall will now have a chance to provide comprehensive support that addresses her son’s needs.

“The PLSA will help us find a way to reduce his vulnerability and help him become a happy, independent, contributing member of society,” said McCall. “A positive future is all any parent wants for her child, and the PLSA will improve the odds of meeting that goal.”

More comments from those supporting and applauding these families:

Goldwater’s Vice President for Litigation Clint Bolick:
“These children deserve high-quality educational opportunities that are customized to suit their unique needs, and we will stand up with their families and defend these scholarships from the very people who have failed these students in the public schools. We will not allow these children to simply be left behind as the ‘collateral casualties’ in the aftermath of ends-justifies-the-means legal action.”

Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd):
“These six Florida families are very brave and they represent thousands more. I applaud their courage and determination.

The union finds education choices threatening, and attacking the process is easier for them than looking parents in the eyes and saying they don’t want low-income students and students with disabilities to have more access to choices in their education. Families want what’s best for their kids and know the stonewalling by the union is unjustified, and as a parent I wholeheartedly agree. It’s disgraceful.

“We know there is no silver bullet in education. For a child with special needs, the right combination of therapies, learning environment and other tools can be life changing. Teachers witness these transformations in classrooms every day. Despite assertions by the FEA, this lawsuit does not represent the views of thousands of educators around the state working to unlock the potential of their students with unique abilities. Some students don’t fall neatly into the ‘all’ category the FEA claims to support, but every single one matters and deserves access to the right educational path that will lead to their success.”

Senator Al Lawson:
“I have spent my career trying to improve public education in this state and I’m telling you that this kind of learning option is just as much a part of public education as a great neighborhood school or an enticing magnet program. It gives parents the chance to choose what works best for their child, and when my friends at FEA oppose these educational tools they are on the wrong side of history.”

The Foundation for Excellence in Education is igniting a movement of reform, state by state, to transform education for the 21st century economy by working with lawmakers, policymakers, educators and parents to advance education reform across America. Learn more at


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