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Pass the Popcorn: GOP Leaders Host 'At The Movies'

By: John Kennedy, The News Service of Florida
By: John Kennedy, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Dec. 3, 2010 --

Florida lawmakers will host a private screening next week of the new film ‘Waiting for Superman,” the pro-charter school documentary which blames teachers’ unions for much of education’s woes.

The House and Senate is inviting lawmakers, government officials and education community leaders to the showing, held at Tallahassee’s Miracle 5 Cinema. The 4 p.m. Tues., showing will be followed by an hour-long panel discussion, with participants still-to-be-determined, said David Bishop, spokesman for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.

But prospects of Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, hosting their own version of television’s “At the Movies,” around education reform, didn’t sit well with the state’s largest teachers’ union.

“It’s a terribly skewed view of education,” said Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the Florida Education Association. “But I’m sure the members will enjoy it immensely.”

“Waiting for Superman,” has achieved a status among Republican school reformers which parallels the way “Citizen Kane” is viewed by graduate film students. It champions the success of urban charter schools, in contrast to the slow-motion footage the film airs of union leaders delivering speeches opposing change from traditional public schools.

Former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who Gov.-elect Rick Scott named Thursday to head his education transition team, is featured heavily in the film.

Rhee is an outspoken critic of teacher tenure and is portrayed in the film struggling with teacher-union resistance as she tries to shift pay structures and reward effective educators.

Legislation similar to the tenure-ending SB 6 approved by lawmakers last spring, but vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist, is already being passed around in draft form among lawmakers and education officials.

Speculation remains that Scott may seek to draft Rhee to become Florida’s next commissioner of education.

For his part, Scott, too, is a fan of the film.

During the final weekend of the governor’s race, Scott rented out a Winter Park movie theater to air “Waiting for Superman” before an audience which included several low-income students whose tuition at an area private school was paid through the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship program.

Scott wants to expand the $140 million program, which allows corporations to get dollar-for-dollar state tax credits toward corporate income taxes, insurance premium taxes and other taxes for contributing to the program. Almost 29,000 students attend private and parochial schools with these vouchers.

“We should do everything we can to expand these programs so we’re not beholden to special interests that are deciding where our kids are going to go to school and what kind of education they receive,” Scott said, after viewing the film.

Shortly before Scott attended the film viewing, his Democratic opponent, Alex Sink, was giving her campaign’s closing argument to the FEA, which endorsed her.


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