Teachers union rekindles legal challenge of Florida school choice law

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A lawsuit challenging Florida school choice legislation will continue, as Florida’s statewide teachers union has reworked its legal arguments and added public-school parents as plaintiffs.

The union filed an amended legal complaint Tuesday in Leon County Court, revamping its challenge of the law creating new Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts for disabled students and expanding access to tax credit scholarships.

The Florida Education Association argues lawmakers improperly combined too many unrelated provisions into a wide-ranging piece of education legislation on the last day of the legislative session.

A Tallahassee judge dismissed the case, deciding the plaintiffs could not show they were harmed by the legislation. They had a Wednesday deadline to rework their lawsuit to show they had standing to challenge the law.

Three public school parents have joined a history teacher from Southwest Florida as plaintiffs, arguing they are “threatened with injury” by the provisions of Senate bill 850, including the expansion of the tax credit scholarship program.

“The significant expansion of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program … will result in additional funds being diverted from the public schools (including from the Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the Lee County Public Schools) to private schools, thus further undermining the quality of education” in the public schools, the union’s lawyers argue in an updated legal filing.

The legislation, passed this spring and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, did not raise the cap on the amount of funding that could flow to tax credit scholarships. It did expand the pool of children who would be eligible, by increasing access for foster children and allowing families with higher incomes to qualify for partial scholarships.

Studies of the financial impact of the tax credit scholarship program have consistently found the program generates savings for the state.

The program is administered by scholarship funding organizations like Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.

Coverage elsewhere:

Miami Herald

Gradebook