A decision by the state Supreme Court not to take up a lawsuit challenging Florida’s tax credit scholarship program means the educational choices of 98,000 low-income and working class children are no longer under legal threat.
Upon hearing the news, many parents expressed relief and gratitude, and called for cooperation on behalf of children.
Alyson Hochstedler, of Tallahassee, is a mother of two students with tax credit scholarships who intervened in the lawsuit to defend the program. She has had other children graduate from public schools.
This is a step in the right in the right direction. Now how do we work together to get kids the help they need?
Another parent who intervened in the lawsuit, Keyla Pineda of Fort Lauderdale, is a mother of a child attending Sha’Arei Bina Torah Academy for Girls in Miami with the help of a tax credit scholarship. Her family fled Venezuela when Hugo Chavez came to power, and were initially in shock when they heard someone was suing to take away their daughter’s scholarship.
“We no longer have to worry about the lawsuit,” she said. “We can focus on high school, on graduation, and college.”
“The scholarship has been a blessing for my daughter,” she added. “I hope we can serve more children with this scholarship.”
Cheryl Joseph uses scholarships to send three of her daughters to Tampa’s Academy Prep Center. Joseph, who also intervened in the case, said she was “ecstatic, not only for my children but for thousands of students all over the state.”
We as parents are going to be able to continue with the school we hand picked for our children, who are excelling. Our voices were heard loud and clear! Now it’s time for all of us to work together and fight against real problems – on improving education, on poverty, homelessness and substandard housing – instead of fighting about where our children should go to school.
Olivia Huron-Schaeffer of Melbourne has three children who use tax credit scholarships, as well as a child with special needs who uses a Gardiner scholarship. Upon hearing the news, she said:
I am in shock. The lawsuit has been going on so long, and I was so worried what was going to happen to my children. I love their school and they love their school, and that could have been taken away. To think that it is finally over is amazing. Now we know the scholarship won’t be taken away from my kids. We did this for my kids and all the other kids that will be coming behind them.
Ashlie Lynn Neeley, a mother of four scholarship students, weighed in on Facebook:
I drive 60 miles a day to get them back and forth to school and spend 75 bucks a week on making their lunches, etc. This is a huge blessing to us as a family. I am glad the courts ruled [in favor of the scholarships]! The schools around here are not the best and this gave us the option to put them in the school we thought was best for our family. We could never have been able to afford it.
Another scholarship parent, Shalonda Allen, said via email:
We fought with you and support you and send so much gratitude your way and all parents way. All of your work is commenced including all parents supporting efforts to dismiss these lawsuits. We did it! We did it together.
Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer the tax credit and Gardiner scholarship programs. Travis Pillow, Patrick Gibbons, Ron Matus and Catherine Robinson contributed to this post. Parents’ Facebook comments were lightly edited for length and clarity.