A new organization has been launched in Florida to support the principle of public schooling and speak out against the diversion of public funds to private and religious schools. Florida’s State Constitution  explicitly prohibits the use of public funds for religious schools. The voters rejected an effort to change the state constitution in 2012. The Republicans who control state government continue to ignore both the state constitution and the will of the voters.

Readers, if you live in Florida and you are Jewish, please encourage your rabbi to join this group and speak out for the separation of church and state. Florida is funding voucher schools whose teachers are uncertified and that teach bigotry and creationism, not science. These schools should not receive public funds intended for public schools.



April 24, 2019


Pastors for Florida Children oppose the continued expansion of

private and religious voucher programs

Money is being drained from our traditional public schools that serve 90% of Florida’s children

This week in Tallahassee, the  Florida Senate appears poised to create a new voucher in Florida, the seventh one in recent years. The “Family Empowerment” voucher proposed in SB 7070 appears to be in direct violation of the Florida Supreme Court’s 2006 Bush v. Holmes decision in that public dollars from the general treasury are being diverted to separate, private systems that are parallel to, and in competition with, free public schools.

The Family Empowerment voucher also raises the threshold for who would be eligible. Unlike the Florida Tax Credit voucher (currently available for students from families with a household income that does not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or $47,638 for a family of four), the Family Empowerment voucher would be available for students who have a household income of 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $77,250 for a family of four beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. However, within four years, this voucher would be available for students with a family whose household income is 375 percent of the federal poverty level, or $96,572 for a family of four.

Attached is a letter to Florida elected officials that has been endorsed by 10 statewide denominational leaders and 45 church leaders.

Who We Are

Pastors for Florida Children is an organization of concerned pastors and faith leaders from all traditions that are focused on advocating for the needs of the nearly three-million public school children across the State of Florida.  Our mission is to provide “wrap-around” care and ministry to local schools, principals, teachers, staff and schoolchildren, and to advocate for children by supporting our free, public education system, to promote social justice for children, and to advance legislation that enriches Florida children, families, and communities.”

For more information contact Rev. Rachel Shapard, (904) 502-5158, rshapard12@floridacbf.org

This is the attached letter:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

To Florida’s Elected Officials:

We the undersigned are united in our belief that public education is an essential institution contributing to the common good in a democratic society. We believe government should be measured in part by its commitment to equip all children to be effective citizens capable of living full and meaningful lives and contributing to their society.

In his State of the State speech, Governor Ron DeSantis ostensibly addressed the need to eliminate a 14,000 student waiting list of children seeking to access the existing corporate tax credit voucher system. His call has been taken up by both the Florida House and Senate in the current legislative session (HB 7075 &
SB 7070).

Legislators are planning to take money directly out of the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) to fund private and religious schools.
Supporters say that this legislation will benefit students disproportionately affected by inadequate public school resources, but they ignore the harm done to the more than 90% of children who remain in our neighborhood public schools.

Supporters also claim that they are giving parents who are economically disadvantaged the opportunity to provide a high quality education for their children that they might not otherwise be able to afford. They overlook the fact that this system potentially exposes the children attending these private and religious schools to a parallel educational process with no accountability, no standards and no certification.

Supporters of both arguments are simply wolves in sheep’s clothing, devouring the public school system of education as we know it and of which we are products. This proposal will undermine and slowly dismantle public education, in that, academic programs will be cut; safety and security will be compromised, and educational support operations will become more inefficient and ineffective.

Public dollars designated for public schools should not be taken away from our already underfunded, traditional neighborhood schools and given to private and religious schools. Florida already ranks 46th in teacher salaries and is in the bottom 10 nationwide in overall funding for public schools.
The real wolves in the effort to privatize and individualize public education are those who have as their goal the overturning of the 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Holmes. This case fundamentally held that public school funds cannot be used for private and religious school purposes.

Our elected leaders have a duty to fund public schools for all of God’s children; not subsidize private and religious education for those who would gamble taxpayer money on a parallel educational system that will have virtually no oversight or accountability. Florida citizens should not be forced into a constitutional confrontation between those who choose private and religious schools and those who choose their neighborhood public schools.

We pray that you will not abdicate your duty, as an elected official, to provide a quality free public education for all. Let us learn from Esau. Do not exchange Florida’s future for a bowl of porridge.

Rev. Bartholomew Banks, President
Progressive Missionary and Educational Florida Baptist Convention, Inc.
Rt. Rev. Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., Resident Bishop Florida Area, The United Methodist Church
Rt. Rev. Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Presiding Bishop
5th Episcopal District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. Raymond Johnson, Ph.D., Coordinator Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida
Rev. Joyce Lieberman, Executive and Stated Clerk Synod of South Atlantic Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rt. Rev. Billy G. Newton, Presiding Bishop
29th Episcopal District, Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
Rt. Rev. Adam J. Richardson, Jr., Presiding Bishop,
11th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church
Rt. Rev. Thomas Scott, Bishop Florida District, Church of God
Rev. Pedro Suarez, Bishop
Florida-Bahamas Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Dr. Willie J. Williams, President
Florida State Primitive Baptist Convention

Church Leadership Signatories
Rev. Dr. Clint Akins, Seeker Fellowship, Ft. Walton Beach
Dr. Joan Averett, Memorial United Methodist Church, Fernandina Beach
Rev. Barbara Awoniyi, New Life United Methodist Church, Tallahassee
Nina Coe, Morrison United Methodist Church, Leesburg
Rev. Kevin Collison, Island View Baptist Church, Orange Park
Sarah Crawford, First United Methodist Church, Starke
Rev. Andy Creel, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Monticello
Martha Creel, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida District 1 Representative, Monticello
Christine Hyde DeNave, Sanlando, United Methodist Church, Longwood
Linda DeWolf, First United Methodist Church, Ocala
Rev. Dr. Jeffrey DeYoe, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Ft. Myers
Rev. Jimmie Dickey, 11th District African Methodist Episcopal Church, Tallahassee
Rev. Haley Eccles, Murray Hill United Methodist Church, Jacksonville
Rev. James T. Golden, 11th Episcopal District of the AME Church, Bradenton
Joyce Hanson, Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, Jacksonville
Rev. Dr. Janes A. Harnidh, United Methodist Retired, Longwood
Rev. Dexter Lamar Harris, Mt. Olive Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Orlando
Elder Lee Harris, Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church, Jacksonville
Sue Hawthorne, Lake Gibson United Methodist Church, Lakeland
Rev. Britt Hester, Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, Jacksonville
Britt Holdren, Hope United Methodist Church, Trinity
Margaret Hughes, Methodist, Lakeland
Betty Huber, First United Methodist, Orlando
Pamela Huffington, First United Methodist Church, Kissimmee
Elder Charlotta Ivy, Sowing Seeds Sewing Comfort Ministry, Tallahassee
Gloria Jones, Crestview
Rev. Tyron Jones, Williams Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Winter Haven
Cynthia Smyth Johnson, St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, Wellington
Jennifer Kelly, First United Methodist Church, Port Orange
Rev. Dr. Russell Meyer, Florida Council of Churches, Tampa
Rev. J. Phillip Miller-Evans, Church of the Beatitudes, St. Petersburg
Rev. Dr. James T. Morris, Central Florida District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Orlando Dorothy Nichols, First United Methodist Church, Port St. Lucie
Rev. Joe Parramore, New Journey Ministries, Quincy
April D. Penton, Trinity United Methodist Church, Tallahassee
Angel Pittman, Touching Miami with Love, Miami
Rev. John Powers, First United Methodist Church, Clearwater
Rev. Susan Rogers, The Well at Springfield, Jacksonville
Rev. Chris Sanders, Asbury United Methodist Church, Orange Park
Rev. Rachel Gunter Shapard, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida, Jacksonville
Rev. Earle F. Sickels, Calvin Presbyterian Church (USA), St. Augustine
Regina Simpson, The Heart Church, Tallahassee
Rebecca Stone, Anona United Methodist Church, Largo
Karen Suters, St. Matthew, Winter Haven
Nicki Taylor, Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Tampa
Judie Thomas, Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Tampa
June Townsend, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Tallahassee