Florida Tax Credit Vouchers are a drain on our educational system and do nothing to solve academic problems. More and more they are beginning to look like pandering to political groups. See the League’s response to calls for ending the lawsuit opposing the vouchers. Protecting public schools and pushing for needed support is the way to solve inequities in education.
Oral arguments were heard in the Joanne McCall vs. Governor Scott lawsuit yesterday. The Florida Education Association, Florida League of Women Voters and the NAACP support the suit. It is not clear that the judges in the First District Court of Appeals agree. They must now decide whether the trial will go forward. A video of the hearing will be available on the Florida 1st District Court of Appeal soon.
The issue is whether tax credit vouchers to send students to private, mostly religious schools is constitutional.
In spite of the mass rally by private school advocates in Tallahassee last January, the Florida Education Association and the League of Women Voters will have their day in court. The First District Court of Appeals will hear the case on May 10th.
Some arguments may include the following:
Districts state that budgets are inadequate to meet all student needs. Children in poverty and the high rate of homelessness require more funding to provide tutoring, time and behavioral support. However, the defense argues:
Which states get it right? Not Florida. It was one of eight states that received an overall grade of ‘F’ when its grades were averaged across the categories studied. The Network for Public Education rated states based on six criteria.
For each category, I combined the percentages of A, B and C grades received across states. I was surprised at the results. Relatively few states (11) use test scores to punish students and teachers, but Florida is one of those that do. You can see the combined percentages (think of them as passing scores) at the end of each of the criteria.
This week’s rally against the FEA lawsuit brought out 10,000 people. If those people lived in Ireland, many would change their views. The Catholic Church runs almost all public schools in Ireland. It’s in their constitution. What does this mean for non-Catholics?
In today’s New York Times, there is a report of a growing movement to separate church and state. Here’s why:
- Students must be baptized to be admitted to public school.
- Almost all public schools are run by the Catholic Church.
- At least 1/2 hour per day is ‘devoted’ to religious training in Catholicism.
- Students who are not Catholic are put at the end of long waiting lists to get into school.
- Morning prayers and preparation for the sacraments are part of the day.
- Non Catholics seldom have any alternative place in a school to go during religious instruction.
- While regular church attendance is down to 14% in Dublin, parents often submit to baptism requirements to be able to enroll their children in school.
- Non Catholic parents face long school waiting lists and long commutes.
Irish law guarantees freedom of religion in public schools, but it also allows enrollment based on religious preference. In reality, parents have little choice.
Florida’s system of choice moves the educational system toward exclusion and religious, racial, and socioeconomic segregation. There is a lawsuit over this in Florida. There is also one in Ireland. Our founding fathers recognized this problem.
We need to reaffirm the need to keep church and state separate. When the shoe is on the other foot, as in Ireland, it hurts.
While Circuit Court Judge Reynolds denied a request for a summary judgment to halt the voucher and tax credit scholarship programs, the Citizens for Strong Schools case continues. The judge ruled that the attorneys for the case did not show harm to the defendants due to vouchers and tax credit scholarships for private schools, but argument could be made when the case comes to trial in March, 2016.
The Florida Educational Association lawsuit was thrown out of court recently, as you know.
Another case, Citizens for Strong Schools, is working through the courts. It hit a bump in the road. In a December 7th article reported by the Associated Press, Judge Reynolds rejected a portion of the Citizen’s for Strong Schools lawsuit dealing with vouchers. The issue was lack of legal standing. What does this mean? What happens next?
Sending public money to private schools is unconstitutional in Florida. The legislature gets around the law by allowing corporations to claim tax credits if they donate their tax obligations to foundations that provide scholarships to private schools.
We do not know much about these schools. They are shielded from disclosure laws public schools face. Evidently, at least someone in the DOE is watching. According to the Florida News Service, here’s one private religious school facing the loss of state scholarships.
Have you received email and Facebook posts asking the League to drop the lawsuit against the corporate tax rebate scholarships to private schools? They have been showing up around the state. Seems like an unprofessional and ineffective activity for a quasi state program. Since most messages appear all at once from different locations, you know that it is an organized effort. I just delete them.