image via Tampa Bay Times
This morning, the Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott, the members of the Florida Cabinet, the state education commissioner, and the state departments of Education and Revenue, alleging that the tax credit voucher program is unconstitutional.
Under the program, low-income families can apply for a tuition voucher of up to $5,272 to send their children to private schools, essentially funneling taxpayer money away from public school districts. In a statement released by email, FEA vice president Joanne McCall states, "This money should be used to help fix our lowest performing schools, instead of sending our students to schools that have no regulations, no standards, and no accountability. It is not fair that our tax dollars are helping only a small student population attend private schools, when the rest of our students are being forgotten."
This isn't the first time a tuition voucher program has been under fire in Florida. Back in 2006, the Florida Supreme Court declared the Opportunity Scholarship Program unconstitutional. That program was funded directly from the state budget, whereas the current program is funded through corporate "donations" for scholarships. Those corporations in return get tax credits from the state. Since the students are no longer attending public school, funding for the schools that the children would have gone to shrinks, forcing teachers and administrators to "do more with less," as if that were mathematically possible.
The FEA cites Article IX of the Florida Constitution, which states that it is "a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education," mandating "a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools.” The lawsuit filed this morning argues that the tax credit voucher program violates this section of the Florida Constitution. The lawsuit is supported by local state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, the Florida School Boards Association, the Florida PTA, the Florida Association of School Administrators, the Florida NAACP and the League of Women Voters in Florida, among many others.