fbpx

Courts

Court showdown over religious freedom looms

After nearly two decades of debate, the U.S. Supreme Court will finally get a chance to determine how state courts may interpret “Blaine Amendments.” The court in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002) previously had ruled state school voucher programs do not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But whether state constitution “Blaine Amendments” could be used to deny voucher programs remained unresolved. “Blaine Amendments” are 19th century vestiges of America’s anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant past. Today, 37 states have amendments to their constitutions preventing religious institutions from indirectly, or in some places like Florida, directly receiving state...

Appeals court weighs major education law

By Jim Saunders and Tom Urban, The News Service of Florida TALLAHASSEE - Appearing skeptical of arguments made by school boards, an appeals court Tuesday waded into a challenge to the constitutionality of a 2017 state law that seeks to boost charter schools. Numerous school boards across the state filed two lawsuits contending that the law infringed on their rights to operate school districts. One of the major issues in the case is the law’s authorization of “schools of hope,” a new type of charter school aimed at areas where children have been served by traditional public schools that are low...
Power of Choice sign

‘Paramount duty’ never intended as weapon against school choice

Editor's note: Misinformation abounds across the education choice landscape, adding confusion to an already complex issue. The redefinED team is dedicated to shining a light and providing the facts. Today's post debunks a long-standing misconception: The state constitution says free public schools are the sole means for the state to provide education in Florida. You can see more myth busting here, or click the link at the top right-hand corner of this page.     The primary reason the Florida Opportunity Scholarship program was struck down 13 years ago was noticeably absent from recent news coverage of a potential lawsuit...

Accountability’s rocky legal road, Part 2

Editor’s note: March 2 marked the 20th anniversary of the legislative session in which Florida Gov. Jeb Bush launched a number of K-12 reforms that transformed education throughout the state. With the start of the 2019 legislative session earlier this month, redefinED embarked upon a series of articles that examine aspects of Bush’s K-12 education revolution and how it continues to reverberate. Today’s piece is the second of two retrospectives that chronicle the plan’s legislative roller coaster ride. You can read Part I here.  The critics strike back With vouchers deemed constitutional by the First District Court of Appeal and with an...
family empowerment scholarship

The constitutionality – and precedent – of publicly funded private schools

Gov. Ron DeSantis, in an effort to address a backlog of more than 13,000 students awaiting a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, pledged to create a new scholarship paid out of public dollars in the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP). The new scholarship would generate 28,000 vouchers for low-income and working-class students in the first year. Critics claim the idea is unconstitutional. By putting state funds “directly into the pockets of unaccountable private institutions,” Senate Democrat Leader Gary Farmer said, the voucher “directly contradicts the precedent established by the Florida Supreme Court in Bush v. Holmes.” "It is blatantly unconstitutional," said Rep. Carlos...

Accountability’s rocky legal road, Part 1

Editor’s note: March 2 marked the 20th anniversary of the legislative session in which Florida Gov. Jeb Bush launched a number of K-12 reforms that transformed education throughout the state. With the start of the 2019 legislative session earlier this month, redefinED embarked upon a series of articles that examine aspects of Bush’s K-12 education revolution and how it continues to reverberate. Today’s piece is the first of two retrospectives that chronicle the plan’s legislative roller coaster ride. Part II is available here.     OPPORTUNITY AWAITS In January 1999, Gov. Jeb Bush’s recently announced “A+ Plan” was generating bipartisan praise. Democrats, school...

Montana school choice case appealed to U.S. Supreme Court

Montana parents appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court last week, asking the court to overturn a ruling that found tax-credit scholarships unconstitutional in the state. The Montana Supreme Court had ruled 5-2 in December that the state’s tax credit scholarship program violated the state’s constitutional bans aid to sectarian schools. The ruling allowed the state to create a new tax credit scholarship program for students to attend only non-religious private schools. “It is a bedrock constitutional principle that the government cannot discriminate against religion,” said Institute for Justice attorney Erica Smith in a press release. “Yet for the past 24 years,...
opportunity scholarship

State-funded scholarship programs: then and now

In 1999 Florida passed the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), the nation’s first statewide school voucher program in nearly fifty years. Florida also became the first to have a statewide voucher program struck down in 2006 under Bush v. Holmes. More than a decade later, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a new state-funded program called the “Equal Opportunity Scholarship,” reanimating debates about the constitutionality of vouchers in the Sunshine State. Back-to-back Florida Supreme Court victories for “voucher” supporters suggest the Holmes ruling began to unravel well before DeSantis appointed three new justices. In fact, significant legal criticism of the ruling at the...