Teachers union asks Florida Supreme Court to settle voucher battle

More than 1,500 schools use program

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The state’s largest teachers union is asking Florida’s highest court to settle an ongoing battle involving a voucher program.

Public schools claim that millions of dollars are being unconstitutionally funneled away from children’s education, going toward tax-credit scholarships.

More than 1,500 schools around the state use the program, with each scholarship averaging just less than $6,000.

Multiple lower courts have shut down the Florida Education Association in its fight against the state’s tax-credit scholarship program. But the teachers union isn’t giving up, and it’s now asking the Florida Supreme Court to look into the case.

“Let’s let the highest court in the state of Florida tell us whether or not we have standing, and then let us litigate it on the merits of the case,” FEA President Joanne McCall said.

And this year, the state is expanding the program, which provides tax breaks for companies funding the scholarships. It’s mostly low-income and minority students who use the scholarships. 

The Supreme Court has sided with the group on other voucher programs in the past, McCall said.

“The highest level ruled in our favor in 2006,” McCall said. “They seem to be the most sane court that we have.”
 
More than 80,000 students are involved in the scholarship program.

Currently, nearly $560 million is set aside for the scholarships. Many of the private schools are faith-based, and a number of religious leaders have consistently urged the union to drop the suit.
 
“We don’t see any harm that this program does to the Constitution,” said Rev. R.B. Holmes, a program supporter. “What it does is strengthen families. It gives boys and girls an option who, once upon a time, were in failing schools.”
 
The teachers union intends to keep fighting.

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