School Choice & Charters

Florida Supreme Court Rejects Lawsuit Challenging Private School Choice

By Arianna Prothero — January 18, 2017 1 min read

Florida’s high court has thrown out a lawsuit challenging one of the country’s largest private school choice programs, according to the Associated Press.

The Florida Supreme Court did not say why it declined to hear the lawsuit backed by the Florida Education Association, a statewide teachers’ union, but the justices rejected the suit, McCall v. Scott, 4-1.

“Who is allowed to challenge the constitutionality of the tax credit vouchers?” FEA’s president and one of the plaintiffs, Joanne McCall, said in a statement. “This ruling, and the decisions by the lower court, don’t answer that question. We still believe that the tax credit vouchers are unconstitutional, but we haven’t had the opportunity to argue our case in court.”

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program is a voucher-like program that helps nearly 98,000 low-income students in Florida pay for tuition at private schools. Unlike a traditional voucher program, the money doesn’t come directly from the state; rather, the state uses tax credits to incentivize donations to a scholarship program from private businesses.

This setup has allowed policymakers in several states to skirt language in their state constitutions barring states from using public money to help fund private, religious schools.

But the FEA argued in its lawsuit that the program was still directing public dollars to religious schools—as well as setting up a parallel education system—and was therefore unconstitutional.

“The Florida Supreme Court’s decision on the case is also a powerful reminder to entrenched special interests that when policymakers work hand-in-hand with Florida’s families, students win,” said former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in a statement. Bush, who was in office when the program was originally created, is currently the president and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s education secretary pick, congratulated the program’s participants on Twitter.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.