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Courts

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...

Shoddy statistics nearly doomed school choice in Florida

Do vouchers and charter schools harm public schools, thereby violating the state’s constitutional duty to fund an adequate system of uniform public schools? Until last month’s 4-3 decision in Citizens for Strong Schools v. State Board of Education, the Florida Supreme Court had ignored the empirical question entirely. In Bush v. Holmes (2006), the court majority decided that a theoretical harm, real or not, was enough to declare the Opportunity Scholarship Program unconstitutional. The three dissenting justices in Citizens for Strong Schools, who all decided on Bush v. Holmes 13 years earlier, finally were forced to examine the evidence. Unfortunately,...
teacher unions

podcastED: ‘We will see widespread school choice when we can educate teachers on the truth’

Rebecca Friedrichs is the fearless California public school teacher best known for being lead plaintiff in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the high-profile lawsuit that – until the unexpected death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016 – was destined to end the union practice of forcibly collecting “agency fees” from non-union members. (Subsequently, last June, Janus v. AFSCME did end the practice.) But what people may not know about Friedrichs is how much her support for educational choice fueled that crusade. In her just-released autobiography, “Standing Up To Goliath,” Friedrichs details her rise from rank-and-file teacher to anti-union...
florida supreme court

Justices reject challenge to state education system

Jim Saunders / News Service of Florida TALLAHASSEE --- A fiercely divided Florida Supreme Court on Friday rejected a nearly decade-long lawsuit that challenged whether the state has properly carried out a 1998 constitutional amendment that called for ensuring a “high quality” system of public schools. The decision upheld lower-court rulings and focused heavily on the role of the judiciary in addressing sweeping issues such as the quality of public schools. A main opinion shared by Chief Justice Charles Canady, Justice Alan Lawson and Associate Justice Edward LaRose said plaintiffs in the case failed “to present any manageable standard by which...

Montana court decision on educational choice invites U.S. Supreme Court overrule

By Andrew Wimer Last week, the Montana Supreme Court struck down the tax credit scholarship program created by that state’s legislature in 2015. The decision ignored recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent and was out of line with every other state court decision involving tax credit scholarship programs. The Montana program provides a modest tax credit (up to $150 annually) to individuals and businesses that donate to private scholarship organizations. There are 18 such programs nationwide, or there were until last week. The Montana Supreme Court struck down the program because it allowed children to attend both religious and non-religious schools. The...