Union dropping lawsuit against Florida school choice legislation

Travis Pillow

The legal cloud over Florida’s new special needs scholarship accounts has lifted, as the Florida Education Association has announced it won’t appeal a judge’s ruling dismissing a lawsuit challenging legislation that created the program.

The union announced the move Thursday in a statement posted by Florida political observer Saint Petersblog and the Scripps/Tribune Tallahassee Bureau

In it, FEA Vice President Joanne McCall said the union decided not to appeal the ruling after beginning a “dialogue” with Andy Gardiner, who is president of the state Senate and a key backer of the Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts Program, on issues ranging from standardized testing to special needs students.

“I am pleased to see the FEA drop their lawsuit,” Gardiner said in a statement. “The families of the more than 1,300 students with unique abilities currently awarded Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts can now rest assured that they will have access to school choice options that are best suited to their unique needs.”

In the lawsuit, the union argued the Legislature acted improperly when it combined multiple provisions, including the creation of the new scholarship accounts and an expansion of eligibility for tax credit scholarships, into a bill that dealt with other education issues. Both programs are administered by nonprofits like Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.

Late last month, a Leon County judge ruled the case should be dismissed because the plaintiffs, including public-school parents and teachers, could not show they had standing to bring the case, in part because they could not show that expanding the tax credit program would harm funding for public schools.

The move comes a day after McCall posted an online video vowing to continue a separate lawsuit challenging the tax credit scholarship program, and to fight that case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, if necessary.

McCall is the lead plaintiff in that second case, which both scholarship parents and lawyers for the state are arguing should be dismissed for much the same reasons as the challenge to Senate bill 850.

Coverage elsewhere:

Times/Herald. Saint Petersblog. Scripps/Tribune. Palm Beach Post.

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