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(light music) - Coming up right now on WEDU: a film about a six-year-old girl integrating an elementary school is banned, at least for now, in Pinellas County, the governor signs the Vouchers for All bill into law, the legislature moves to eliminate most abortions in Florida, and Disney might have blocked the governor's plan to take control of the theme park property.
All this and more, next, on "Florida This Week."
(upbeat music) Welcome back, joining us on the panel this week, Steve Bousquet is the Opinion Page editor for the "South Florida Sun Sentinel."
Paula Dockery is a former state senator and a political columnist.
Pam McAloon is the Florida State GOP Committeewoman from Pinellas County, and Sean Shaw is a former state representative and attorney and a democrat.
Nice to see all of you.
- Good to be here.
- Well, former president Trump, who lives in South Florida, was indicted on 34 criminal counts by a Manhattan grand jury on Thursday.
Trump is already an announced presidential candidate.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is also expected to get in that Republican primary race for president.
He announced within minutes of the indictment news that he will not assist in extraditing Trump from Florida.
In the statement, the governor said the indictment was un-American and called the Manhattan DA, "Soros-backed."
Under the US Constitution, an interstate extradition is required under Article 4 Section 2.
That section says that, "A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice and be found in another state, shall on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime."
So, Steve, the governor gets involved.
He may have violated the Constitution, or at least says he's gonna violate the Constitution, but he doesn't need to because it looks like Trump is gonna appear on Tuesday in New York.
But who is helped, who is hurt by this indictment?
Is it Trump or DeSantis, if we consider them the two biggest contenders for the Republican nomination?
- Yeah, I don't know that it helps Ron DeSantis.
I think it helps Trump in the short run, and Trump is going to milk and extract every ounce of political advantage from this possible.
I've seen on social media he says he's not gonna let them show him in handcuffs.
He won't be handcuffed if he turns himself in, but if there was a political advantage to Trump being handcuffed, you can bet he would do it.
This is the ultimate New York City tabloid news story.
There is so much we don't know.
And I say to you right now, everybody, and to those watching, there's a lot of stuff in that 34 count sealed indictment we don't know about yet that we're gonna have... You think people are gonna be talking about the Final Four basketball tournament this weekend?
They're gonna be talking about this everywhere.
And I still say, quickly, what's a bigger deal even than this is that Georgia voter fraud investigation.
- Yeah, Pam, what do you think about this?
I mean, how do you think Republicans feel about this indictment?
- Well, I don't think it's just a Republican issue, I think it's an American issue.
And I'm gonna be very, like, you know, blunt about this, I think is a pox in our country right now, I really do, to indict a former president.
This is the first time in, what, about 234 years that a president has ever been charged with anything per se.
We don't even know, again, as she was saying, what the actual charge are, and with the indictment, all of those charges are under seal at this point.
But a former president?
I think it's setting a very dangerous precedence for this country.
- Sean, let me get your take on that.
Does it set of very dangerous precedent for the country?
- Trump set the dangerous precedent, that's the issue.
Of course, it's unprecedented, of course it's different, of course it's something that's never been done because Trump acted in a way (Pam speaking indistinctly) that no president has ever acted.
That's why he was impeached twice.
And so, listen, everyone is subject to the same system of government, whether you're rich, poor, whether you're a president or not.
And so if you break the law, a grand jury's indicted you, you ought to be subject to the same legal system we all are, whether you're an ex-president or not.
I don't think it sets a bad precedent to indict someone who breaks the law.
The problem is we've just never had a president to do that.
- Pam, we just have 10 seconds, but what would you say back?
- Yeah, I would like to add to that.
First of all, you don't know whether or not he has broken the law.
Secondly, the Department of Justice bypassed this, these charges, and didn't pursue them.
Initially, the district attorney in the state of New York also bypassed it because they're saying, "Oh, the statute of limitations has run out."
Now, I'm not an attorney, but I do my research.
So this just seems to be highly political and I think it's gonna certainly benefit Trump in the primary.
- All right, we're gonna see on Tuesday.
Well, governor Ron DeSantis signed the nation's largest expansion of school vouchers into law this week.
Under the program, every Florida family, regardless of their income, will be eligible for state money to send their children to private schools.
The cost in the first year is unknown, somewhere between $210 million and $4 billion, depending on how many parents decide to take their kids out of public schools.
The amount of each scholarship is still to be determined.
The average cost of a K-12 private school in Florida is $10,000.
So, Paula, I guess the big question is, will this help improve education in the state of Florida?
And will it make all kids' outcomes better whether they go to private school or public school?
- No, absolutely not.
It's been 11 years since I was in the legislature and I was in for 16 years before that, and from my first day in there in 1996, they were trying to take money away from public education and put it into vouchers or some other program to help pay for private schools.
And we always were able to keep as much money as we possibly could in a public school education.
And now they're not even doing it on a small program basis, where it's just for kids with some disability or just for parents under a certain income level.
It's just wholesale, let's get as many kids out of public education as we can.
And that can't do anything but hurt the public education system.
Private schools can turn students down.
Public schools have to take every child that comes there.
We have a teacher shortage in public education, now you're diverting needed funds out of the public school system.
So I fear for the future of public education in our state.
And, you know, I just don't believe that we should be spending taxpayers' money on religious schools.
I'm religious and if I wanna send my kids to a private school that focuses on a religion, then I would pay for it.
I just don't think tax money should be going to, you know, indoctrinate kids into one religion or another.
- When you were in the legislature, you were a Republican up there in the legislature.
- I was.
- Pam, what about this idea that all parents, regardless of income, including millionaires and billionaires, can get the voucher?
- Well, good question, that's a very good question .
And my answer would be, well, don't millionaires and billionaires also pay taxes?
Why should they be discriminated against?
Certainly this is obviously a program that the governor has studied very thoroughly.
Parents want school choice.
I think that the teachers unions are in a panic because it's gonna take power away from them.
A lot of parents believe that their children have been socially engineered or the schools are trying to socially engineer the children.
And it's a fear, you know, it's a fear that they have.
You know, if you remember all the school board testimonials that were taking place, you know, up in Virginia about what was happening up there and parents, you know, finding out about CRT as a result of the pandemic, which was kind of an interesting outcome there.
- Sean, what do you think about that?
Are schools trying to social engineer kids, and should parents be taking their kids out of public schools because of that?
- I don't know what the mention of CRT was, but I'm sure we'll figure that out at some point.
But when I was in the legislature, Paula's exactly correct, you know, they started with the program, it was just gonna be limited to disabilities and then just poor kids.
And here we are now where everyone gets it.
The failing public school that everyone is upset about that exists in the urban core of any community, how's that school gonna get fixed if you continue to divert money away from it and you allow anyone who wants a voucher to get it regardless of income or anything else?
That school ultimately doesn't get fixed.
It just gets resources diverted away continuously over and over and over again until it just, it can't succeed.
And so I think this is a problem.
I believe in choice, I just don't believe in taxpayers subsidized choice to the extent that this is.
I think this is an expansion that is gonna end up coming to hurt the public school system and bite it in the behind, like Paula said.
- Steve, this is the biggest expansion in the nation of school vouchers.
It puts, I think, Governor DeSantis in the lead when it comes to so-called education reform, right?
- It does, it's gonna be catastrophic, in my opinion.
This is the complete evisceration of public education, which is what Republicans want.
You're putting $8,000 on the table for every parent to take their kid and put them in a private school.
Private schools are great.
Religious schools are great, with your money, not taxpayer money.
The other thing about this is that, I talked to Allen Zeman this week, he's a recently elected Broward County School Board member, he said it's gonna become impossible for school districts to plan logically for the next year for how many teachers do we need, how many buses do we need?
And you may think this is frivolous, but when we get to a point where a high school in Pasco County can't field a competitive football team because of this, because of the football, you know, obsession we have in Florida, then it'll hit home with what they've done.
- Okay, well, a Disney film called "Ruby Bridges" about a six-year-old girl who was the first to desegregate New Orleans public schools has been banned for all students at North Shore Elementary School in Pinellas County.
According to the "Tampa Bay Times," the ban came after the mother of a second-grade student complained that the film was inappropriate.
In a formal challenge, the mom said that the use of racial slurs and scenes of white people threatening young Ruby Bridges might result in students learning that white people hate Black people.
- Stay between the four of us and do not look back, no matter what happens.
Don't look back at the crowd.
- Just keep it back.
- Ain't nothing going through.
- I'm late for a medical conference.
(horn beeps) Hey!
what's going on here?
(crowd yelling indistinctly) (horns honking) (camera shutter clicks) (dramatic music) - [Woman] Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate.
Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate.
- [Crowd] Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate.
- Pinellas school officials responded by banning the movie from use by all students at the St. Petersburg School until a review committee can assess it.
The decision to ban the film has drawn criticism from many quarters, especially from civil rights education and anti-censorship groups.
Now, school officials have pushed back against the notion that the movie was banned, using the words "pause" instead, and "temporary hold," and telling the "Tampa Bay Times" that it remains available at other elementary schools and a decision on the film is gonna be made or at least heard, the discussion about the film is gonna be heard on Monday in Pinellas County.
So, Sean, what do you think about this, I mean, in context of what else is happening in Florida schools regarding the teaching of history?
- It's a sad, sad commentary on where we are as a state that a Disney movie about integration would be too much.
What really is concerning, well, a lot of things are, but the fact that one single parent can impact the ability of all the rest of the kids in that school and in that school district to learn about that film is unfortunate, one.
And then, two, what the governor is doing here, you know, he passes this legislation, he does it, he throws a bomb in the room, and then when things like this happen, he says, "Well, this isn't really how the law should be applied.
This school board is wrong and this isn't really how it should be interpreted."
The atmosphere around Black history and around its erasure and around not teaching what we ought to be teaching is clear.
It's clear to everyone what's going on, and these are the ramifications of it.
And this is just another example of it.
This is a particularly egregious example because it only took one parent, and the movie's a Disney movie about a young girl walking into that school and getting accosted while she was trying to integrate that school.
And one parent was able to rob the rest of the kids about true history, that's sad.
- Steve, there are other cases where parents have gone to school boards and said, "Look, these books don't belong in my child's school."
And at least temporarily, those books have been removed.
Are teachers and principals and school board members at this point in the state, are they afraid?
- Yeah, I think there's a lot of fear about it, I do.
Now, Ron DeSantis has called this a hoax.
It's not a hoax, however, you know, I think it is true that a number of books, many books have been pulled off the shelves for this intermediate review process.
And maybe those books will be sent back.
But the stories about the book, about Roberto Clemente, books about Rosa Parks, we need all the Black history we can get in this state, especially in this state.
And there aren't enough media specialists.
As we know, the narrative of Florida on everything, there isn't enough of blank, okay?
And it's certainly true of media specialists to make these reviews.
And again, as Sean said, it doesn't seem logical or fair to most people that one person can hijack the whole process.
- Pam, what do you think about what's going on?
- Well, first of all, I don't like to use the word, I don't like the word book banning, okay?
Because literature, educational literature has always been scrutinized.
I mean, from the time I was a kid too.
I mean, during our time you had "Playboy" magazine, you had "Playgirl," Harlequin romances, whatever.
And those particular magazines were not placed, you know, in the school curriculum.
School curriculum, the books that he's talking about are books that are accurate and are actual history.
There is also a book that was found in Pinellas County called "Pork Chop Island," and this had to do with people, boys having sex with one another.
And I don't know what place that has in school curriculum, to be honest with you.
But I wouldn't call that banning, I would say, let's call it selective, selectiveness.
- But do you think some aspects of Black history are being banned statewide, this being one example?
- This really, this particular, in fact, I have not seen this movie.
I really haven't, and I'm going to, you know, watch it, but "Ruby Bridge," I mean, this would be pretty accurate as to what happened the South during that time in 1960.
When you think about Brown v Topeka Board of Education in 1954 under Justice Earl Warren which led to desegregation of schools, still, many schools in the South, you know, did not want to comply.
- They didn't integrate right away.
- And they didn't, no, they did not.
So it was bad.
It was not a good thing.
And yes, that should be taught.
- Okay, all right.
Well, the Walt Disney Company has quietly put up a roadblock to Governor DeSantis's attempted hostile takeover of control over the Disney property near Orlando.
Just weeks before DeSantis appointed a new board to replace the one that governs Disney's theme park property, the entertainment giant in a public meeting created a declaration that said that any changes to the district must be made to benefit Walt Disney World.
The document also states that the declaration shall be enforceable in perpetuity, or if that is deemed unenforceable, until 21 years after the death of the last surviving descendants of King Charles III, the King of England.
Essentially, it's an attempt to block DeSantis from taking control of the Disney property, at least until the matter is litigated in the courts.
One of the governor's appointees said the Disney move was a naked attempt to circumvent the will of the voters and the will of the Florida legislature.
Disney and DeSantis have been at odds over the Don't Say Gay law and over diversity training.
Paula, has Disney out-maneuvered Ron DeSantis?
- You know, this is fascinating.
This really is fascinating.
I think we have to start by saying why is it that Governor DeSantis wants to take control of Disney in the first place?
These special districts exist all over the state and they're nothing unique.
And Disney had this one for decades and it was primarily for infrastructure on their property or in their boundaries.
And so I understand that every article that was written kind of said this was political payback and it was the governor bullying a corporation because they weren't going along with his culture wars.
But why does he wanna take control of that?
You know, The Villages is a special district.
You don't see him going in and trying to take control of The Villages.
So I think what Disney did, I wondered why they weren't being a little more vocal when they were under attack.
It was really pretty brilliant.
And I think they're standing on pretty firm legal ground here.
So one comment that one of the board members made... And let's keep this in mind too, the board members that were in place knew what it was like to govern the Disney properties.
The governor put five people that have no experience whatsoever into something that's bonding dollars, issuing debt, paying off that debt, managing transportation systems and fire and whatnot.
One of those people said that this would relegate them to only taking care of transportation.
What else were they put in place for if it wasn't for the infrastructure?
And I have the impression that he put very conservative, far-right people on there and it's all about the wokeness and to change the culture of Disney from being a very tolerant and accepting place to somebody who kind of insinuates their will onto the culture of Disney.
- Bridget Ziegler on that board, who is a school board member from Sarasota County, and she's very conservative on cultural issues.
Pam, what do you think about this?
Is Disney defying the will of the Florida voters?
- I don't know if it's defying the will of the Florida voters, in fact, if anything, well, let me just back up.
Reedy Creek was established, in 1967, I thought it was a really good idea, you know, back then because they wanted to bring Disney down to Florida.
And boy, didn't Orlando take off?
you Know, jobs, development, and everything else.
They've been their own town.
It's like they have their own sovereignty, their own special district.
I think it's time for them to, "Okay, let's pony up."
I mean, come on, they'll still be paying their own taxes.
They'll still be paying their own debts.
Disney's in a panic mode right now anyway.
And I'm sort of like getting off on another topic.
They're in a panic mode.
They are getting rid of employees.
They're in competition with Universal Studios, which pays their employees more money than what Disney does.
And they're saying that their streaming services, such as Disney+, is going down the drain.
I mean, more and more subscribers have decided not to resubscribe, so that's a lot of money that they're losing right there.
It's about $16 billion.
- Steve, I think the big question is, will the taxpayers in the area have to pay the Disney property taxes?
Because Disney was paying the property taxes until this decision.
Do we know anything about that?
That's part of the issue.
- I do not know the answer to that question.
- What do you think about the Disney maneuver?
- Well, think that- - Its an interesting maneuver.
- Yeah, I think that the one thing that you don't underestimate with the Disney Corporation is their legal firepower.
They came prepared to the table here.
- That's true.
- It does look like Ron DeSantis and company got snookered here.
And who are the losers?
The losers are the taxpayers of Florida.
This will be litigated endlessly, okay?
And Disney has a bottomless pit of revenue for, despite the layoffs, like you said, Pam, they are laying people off- - They're laying people off.
- But Disney's got plenty of money to litigate this.
And why somebody didn't read this and catch this, somebody owes the people of Florida an explanation why.
- Because the decision was made in the public.
The decision by Disney to do this maneuver was done in the public.
- And if I could just throw in that Steve is exactly right.
The taxpayers are gonna pay the legal bills and we still don't even know what the problem was that Governor DeSantis was trying to fix.
And so it just seems like we're paying for his mistakes.
- Okay, well, the state legislature is moving to ban most abortions after six weeks.
Many women don't know that they are pregnant until after six weeks, so opponents say the bill would effectively ban legal abortions in Florida.
The new bills would allow some exceptions.
Abortions would be okay up to 15 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape or incest, but would require women to prove that they were victims.
There is no exception for victims of human trafficking.
Now, we checked and the latest version of the bill, SB 300, does include an exception for human trafficking.
And, Pam, do you think that Floridians want this total ban on abortion in Florida?
- I don't think they want a total ban on abortion.
They're saying, you know, up to six weeks.
But interesting, you know, that you asked me that question because there was a doctor with whom I'd spoken who's a retired ob/gyn.
And he dealt with high risk, you know, maternal, fetal, you know, problems.
And he said that he'd like to see it defined, what do you mean by six weeks?
Do you mean when, you know, once a woman misses her cycle?
Or is it gonna be two weeks after?
So he said that needs to be further defined, even though he himself did not perform, you know, abortions.
He was actually saving babies.
And, you know, it's such a politically charged issue.
It really is.
It's gotten so political.
I don't think we'll ever come to a consensus where that is concerned.
I can understand, you know, both sides, but still and all, whatever decisions you make in this lifetime, there are consequences.
And that's where I'm at at this point.
And I am pro-life.
- Okay, all right.
Paula, what do you think.
- Roe v Wade served us well.
Now we're gonna have a mishmash of various laws around the country.
Women aren't even aware of what's happening.
It's amazing to me that the governor calls this the free state of Florida when they're taking away rights.
And what could be a more basic right for a woman than to have control over her own body?
- Sean, Planned Parenthood has floated the idea of maybe going around the state and collecting signatures and putting an amendment on the ballot that would guarantee the right to abortion here in Florida.
It's a hugely expensive endeavor.
Tell me what you think about the prospects for Planned Parenthood getting such an amendment on the ballot.
- It $20 million, essentially, to get something on the ballot like that.
As you said, that's a lot of money.
And you gotta raise it.
And I know this 'cause I've been involved in some of these.
You gotta raise it in chunks, you gotta get the signatures, then you gotta take it to the Supreme Court, and then you gotta convince the voters to do it.
But I do think there's momentum.
People are very mad about how Florida is dealing with this and so I think there may be money.
Whether there's enough money, we'll see.
But there is momentum to get this on the ballot because of how mad people are.
- Steve, what are you hearing about Planned Parenthood and what their aims are?
- I agree with Sean Shaw completely, and those signatures have to be into the state by next February.
The Republicans have made it as difficult as possible to get a ballot initiative on the ballot.
I think this is, however, you put something like this on the ballot in a presidential election year in Florida and you have electrified the electorate, especially women voters, as never before.
One point that hasn't been mentioned here, I certainly agree with a lot of what Paula and Sean have said, but the 15-week ban that passed last year is not yet the law of the land.
It's being litigated in the Florida courts.
So you're litigating and fighting in court over what they did last year and they impose something even more restrictive on top of it.
- And doesn't the Florida Constitution and its right to privacy... That's what the pro-choice people are saying, that we have the right in Florida under our Constitution.
- It does, but it's yet to be decided with the courts.
You know, we've got very pro-DeSantis, you know, a more conservative judiciary in the state, so who knows.
- And I'd like to add - Pam we just have 20 seconds.
- Okay, I just would like to add, you talk about right to privacy, are you talking about the Fourth Amendment unreasonable search and seizure?
- No, we're talking about the Florida, I'm sorry, the Florida constitution.
- Okay, you're talking about the actual Florida Constitution?
Well, that was my question to you.
- All right.
Well, thank you all for a great show.
And thank you for watching us.
It's open week, or opening week for Major League Baseball.
Tune an into an encore presentation of the documentary, "Rise of the Rays: A Devil of a Story," looking back at the history of how the Tampa Bay area acquired a team.
It airs on WEDU this Sunday, April 2nd at 6:00 PM, or online at wedu.org/rays.
Send us your comments at email@example.com.
And from all of us here at WEDU, have a great weekend, and go Rays.
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