Fighting for Florida

In an op-ed for the Sun Sentinel, Senator Rubio urges the U.S. Department of Education to end its baseless investigation into the Florida Bright Futures scholarship program, highlighting the program’s fundamental purpose: to assist promising students with rising costs of higher education based solely on merit. Excerpts from the piece are below:

For over two decades, Bright Futures has helped thousands of students finance their education at our state's colleges and universities. Its promise has been simple: for high-school students who achieve a certain grade point average, standardized test score and coursework, the state gives scholarships covering all or most of their college tuition.

The program has been entirely merit-based, using the most objective standards available.

If people believe the wrong priorities are being set, our political process provides avenues to advocate for legislative changes or elect representatives who do share their priorities. That's what makes this federal intrusion unnecessary.

A federal civil rights investigation is a serious matter that should be reserved for instances where deliberate violations of civil rights are clearly occurring.

We had many vigorous debates about the program and its future during my time in the legislature, including whether its changing standards were leaving out too many students. The criticism that existed then, as it does now, was that this program had the effect of transferring money from Florida lottery players that tend to be poorer to students who tended to come from wealthier families.

It was a valid concern, and one we made efforts to address by prioritizing more need-based grant and loan programs, as well as the underlying factors that made it harder for students to achieve the Bright Futures academic eligibility standards. It reinforced in me the belief that our K-12 education system should provide greater freedoms to parents to help their kids escape failing schools, expanded learning and mentoring opportunities for at-risk kids.

But ultimately, these choices, debates and arguments belong at the state and local level. It's one thing to question one's policy priorities, but it's another matter to suggest that the architects of a scholarship program — one that has already helped thousands of Hispanic and African-American students — may be guilty of discriminating against these communities.

If people want to debate the underlying merits of the Bright Futures standards, I can respect that. And if someone wants to scrap Bright Futures entirely because they believe there is simply no infallible and completely objective way of setting eligibility standards for it, they should make that argument before the state legislature.

But encouraging the federal government to interfere and decide for us would set a dangerous precedent that all Floridians will one day come to regret.

Read the entire op-ed here.

Last fall, I had a chance to visit Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Miami, where I concluded my visit by checking out the football team’s practice. At that time, they were in the middle of a playoff run that not only resulted in them winning the state championship, but also the national championship for high school football.

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Several of their players are also headed to play college football this fall.

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This past Friday, I had the privilege of addressing Booker T.’s football players, coaches and families at a banquet honoring their season. Here are some photos from the event:

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This Memorial Day, I join my fellow Floridians and the entire country in celebrating the bravery and heroism of our servicemen and women, both past and present, who honorably answer the call in defense of liberty. For me it is an honor to work in the Senate on behalf of all of our military men, women and families.

On Memorial Day we remember our American heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to preserve the freedom we all hold dear. These heroes are America’s greatest blessing, and our nation is safer, stronger and more prosperous because of their sacrifices.

And while this day commemorates those we have lost, we also remember the American service members currently deployed all over the world and our veterans here at home. It is a reminder for us all to take the time both as a nation and personally, to reflect on the sacrifices they make on a regular basis, and of our obligation as a nation to honor that sacrifice by caring for our veterans that carry on the memories of their fallen brothers and sisters in arms. It’s why dealing with the ongoing Veterans Affairs scandal, swiftly and decisively, must be an urgent priority.

May God bless you, may God bless our men and women in uniform, and may God always bless the United States of America.

Today, Senator Rubio met with student groups from Miami Central High School in Miami, Florida and International Studies Prep Academy in Coral Gables, Florida. Rubio and the group of 16 students discussed the importance of higher education and achieving the American Dream in the 21st century. Below are pictures from their meeting.

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Rubio and students pose for a selfie.

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Rubio discusses higher education and the American Dream with two student groups from South Florida.

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Rubio with students from Miami Central High.

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Rubio with students from International Studies Prep Academy.

As I reflect today on the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education, which paved the way for the integration of American schools, I am reminded of the richness of my own experiences in the public schools growing up.

I spent most of my childhood in Miami, apart from a few years in Las Vegas. In both cities, I attended schools of great ethnic and racial diversity. In Las Vegas, there were white non-Hispanic students, African American students, and many whose families had immigrated from Mexico. And in Miami, my high school football team was as diverse as the city I called home. 

I’m grateful to have been exposed to such diversity. It gave me, early in life, an appreciation of the varied cultural backgrounds that combine to make America the vibrant and thriving global beacon that it is. I learned from my classmates in a way that would have been impossible just a few decades earlier. But even more importantly, I gained an understanding of what unites Americans as a people. All parents from all backgrounds want their kids to have access to the promise of America, and this starts with our children receiving a world class education in a safe and welcoming environment.

Ours is the greatest nation in history, but our history is not without blemish. Slavery and the discrimination that followed it violated the founding ideal that everyone deserves an equal shot at success. Today, we still carry on the fight for equal opportunity. We still have work ahead of us to heal the wounds inflicted in a time of great injustice. But on this day, we remember the case of Brown vs. Board of Education, one of many instances in our history when the courage of a few who dared to stand up to injustice led to a better America for all.

One year ago today Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of murder for killing three babies born alive during illegal late-term abortions. His shameful indifference to the lives of both these victims and the desperate women he claimed to treat shocked the nation. On this first anniversary of Gosnell’s conviction, we are reminded of the work that remains to protect the most innocent and vulnerable among us. 

As an original co-sponsor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S.1670), I was disappointed that Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Democrats blocked today’s attempt to bring this compassionate and reasonable legislation to the floor for a vote. 

S.1670 would protect unborn babies beginning at 20 weeks – more than halfway through pregnancy – when science reveals that they can feel excruciating pain.

The dignity of each and every human life is fundamental. And deep disagreements exist among our people about abortion, surely we should aspire to be a nation where we protect unborn babies who can feel pain, respond to touch, and recognize their mothers’ voices.

This legislation is sound policy and widely supported by the public. Yet sadly, this is a policy on which the United States lags far behind the rest of the world. According to a recent study released by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the United States is one of only seven countries that allow elective abortion past 20 weeks, joining, among others, China and North Korea. This is a tragedy that cannot stand.

I am proud to be joining Senator Lindsey Graham and 39 of my colleagues in the Senate in strongly supporting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. I hope the Majority Leader will reconsider and allow this legislation to be considered on the floor.

Happy Mother's Day

May 11 2014

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to thank all the mothers in Florida, across the nation and serving overseas for their hard work and sacrifices to give our children a chance at a better future. A mother’s duties do not end at five o’clock. She does not receive a paycheck for her time, nor get holidays off. A mother’s job is constant. But in return, her compensation is found in the love of her family and the happiness of her children.

It takes a special person to be a mother — selflessly putting the needs of her children before her own, unconditionally supporting and loving them, and oftentimes serving as the voice of reason — because let’s face it, mothers really do know best.

Growing up, my mom taught me many lessons in life, and she continues to do so today. She taught me that my potential was unlimited, and that through hard work and an education I could achieve whatever I wanted to — including my own version of the American Dream. She taught me the values of family, tradition and kindness. And I am blessed to see my wife instilling those same qualities in our four children.

I would especially like to wish a happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers serving overseas. We thank you for your selfless service to both your country and your children, and we appreciate your sacrifice. We also celebrate military moms, the wives of service men keeping their military families together, and the moms of our service members whose sons and daughters risk their lives so that we can continue to live freely and safely. Your strength is inspiring to us all, and I wish you a peaceful and fulfilling day.

While we set aside one day each year to honor our mothers, we must remember to thank them not just today, but every day. From first steps and first days of school, to graduation days and wedding days, their love has guided us to life’s many celebrations and through its many obstacles. In return, we aim to be the sons and daughters they worked so hard to raise, using the values they have instilled in us to navigate life.

To all the mothers whose love has resulted in generations of men and women filled with principle and promise, Happy Mother’s Day.

During today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing discussing the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela, Senator Rubio argued for the need to impose sanctions on the following 23 individuals he says are responsible for human rights violations in the country:

Name

Position

Organization

Aref Eduardo Richany Jiménez

General Director

Directorate of Armaments and Explosives (DAEX)

Julio César Morales Prieto

General Director

Directorate of Armaments and Explosives (DAEX)

Hugo Carvajal

Director

Directorate of Military Intelligence

Iván Hernández Dala

Director

General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence

Luisa Ortega Diaz

General Prosecutor

Office of the General Prosecutor

Luis Alberto Arrayago Coronel

Chief of the Regional Command Number 8

National Bolivarian Armed Forces

Miguel Vivas Landino

Chief Strategic Region of Integral Defense of the Andes

National Bolivarian Armed Forces

Francisco Rangel Gómez

Governor

Governorship Bolívar State

Alexis Ramírez

Governor

Governorship Mérida State

Jose Gregorio Vielma Mora

Governor

Governorship Táchira State

Henry Rangel Silva

Governor

Governorship Trujillo State

Aquíles Rojas Patiño

Commander of the "Guardia del Pueblo" Regiment

Bolivarian National Guard

Justo Jose Noguera Pietri

Commander General

Bolivarian National Guard

Sergio Rivero Marcano

National Commander, Guardia del Pueblo

Bolivarian National Guard

Antonio Benavides Torres

Director of Operations

Bolivarian National Guard

Franklin Garcia Duque

Chief of the Regional Command Number 1

Bolivarian National Guard

Arquímedes Herrera Ruso

Chief of the Regional Command Number 2

Bolivarian National Guard

Manuel José Graterol Colmenarez

Chief of the Regional Command Number 3

Bolivarian National Guard

Octavio Chacón

Chief of the Regional Command Number 4

Bolivarian National Guard

Manuel Quevedo

Chief of the Regional Command Number 5

Bolivarian National Guard

Gustavo Colmenares

Chief of the Operative Zone of Integral Defense

Venezuelan Navy

Miguel Rodriguez Torres

Minister

Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace

Marcos Rojas Figueroa

Vice Minister of the Integral Police System

Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace

Hebert Garcia Plaza

Vice Minister of Services

Ministry of Defense

Manuel Eduardo Pérez Urdaneta

Director

Bolivarian National Police

Gustavo Enrique González López

Director General

Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia (SEBIN) (Intelligence Services)

Manuel Gregorio Bernal Martínez

Director General - removed on Feb 18

Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia (SEBIN) (intelligence Services)

 

Today I cosponsored Senate Resolution 225, a resolution calling for the establishment of a joint select committee to investigate the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks against the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. A year and a half after these attacks, despite a limited number of public hearings, too many questions remain regarding what the Obama administration knew during the attacks and their response. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the lack of oversight by the committee of the State Department’s response to the attacks is unacceptable. Even after the completion of the Accountability Review Board, it is unclear how many of their recommendations have been implemented despite promises by Secretaries Clinton and Kerry that all of the ARB recommendations would be adopted. Further, the SFRC has not even attempted to conduct a thorough investigation into these terrorist attacks that took the lives of four brave Americans. At this late date, there has not been a single person at the State Department held accountable for their failure to properly secure the diplomatic facility in Benghazi despite a mountain of intelligence highlighting the threat and foreshadowing the risk of terrorist attack. I hope that Senate Democrats will follow the lead of Speaker Boehner and establish a joint select committee to study the Benghazi attacks without delay. We owe it to the families of those who died and to all Americans serving in difficult posts overseas.  

This week, communities across the country are coming together to celebrate National Charter Schools Week. We celebrate the many successes and achievements of charter schools, honoring the value of a quality education and its undeniable, profound effect on our children’s future.

As we are faced with new economic challenges in the 21st century, quality education is key to achieving the American Dream. During a time when parents are struggling to financially provide for the education their children deserve, charter schools have become a welcome and much-needed option for millions of our youth, while also empowering parents with more school choice. They ensure access to the kind of education our children need to thrive, and the kind of high quality education that many across the country would otherwise be left without.

Charter schools are grounded in the American values of innovation and efficiency, fostering educational opportunity. With over 6,500 of these schools in America, more than 2.5 million students are receiving quality education. And in 2013, the number of Florida charter schools has grown to over 570, with enrollment topping 200,000 students.

I remain deeply committed to building a strong middle class, and charter schools help advance this goal through innovative learning techniques and an accountable, transparent education system that equips our children with the tools needed to succeed.

Our children are the foundation of America, and education is the core of their success. This week, we celebrate the strides charter schools continue to make and we remain dedicated to ensuring access to the quality education that will help usher in a new generation prepared to make America’s future even brighter than its past.