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Rep. Jones: Children would 'fall through the gaps' if donations to scholarship fund stopped

By Sayfie Review Staff

Hours after he released a statement asking companies not to withhold contributions to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program over some in the program discriminating against LGBTQ students, a slew of House Democrats and scores of black and Hispanic religious leaders gathered at the Capitol for a demonstration aimed at pressuring companies into continuing their support of a program that funds as many as 1,000 scholarships.

“I’m a devout supporter of public schools and I believe parents should be able to decide,” Jones told Sayfie Review. “If dollars are being taken away, it would take children out of school and make them fall through the gaps because not getting an education makes us all lose.”

Jones has a unique perspective on the issue: he is the son of a pastor who attends a church that has a private school that accepts vouchers, and he is also the state’s first and only out gay black state lawmaker.

With Florida Politics describing him as a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights, Jones said he now hopes to steer the conversation in the direction of legislation putting policies in place that make sure children are protected.

“That means we also have to be concerned about where at least 90 percent of our students are actually going to school,” he added. “I don’t believe voucher programs should be funded at the expense of the whole public school system.”

“Ripping scholarship funding out from underneath thousands of economically vulnerable students whose only chance at a safe environment and solid education is not the answer,” Jones told Florida Politics. “While we come together to create policies to ensure these conditions, I urge companies not to end their support for students in the short term.”

The great debate has raged ever since the Orlando Sentinel uncovered policies at more than 80 schools barring gay or transgender students from being able to matriculate at private schools that accept state-supported vouchers.  

Since then, the battle lines have been clearly drawn and Jones admits he’s been forced to endure the scars to prove it.

“I’ve been getting some backlash from all over,” he said. “I maintain we need a policy in place for nondiscrimination, but I’ve never said there isn’t a place in the public school system for these kids and I never would.”