Florida has had three recent voucher lawsuits: Fasse et al vs. Scott et al, McCall et al vs. Scott et al, and Citizens for Strong Schools vs. Department of Education. They all oppose Florida Tax Credit Scholarships (FTC) to private schools.
The money is significant; it now amounts to over $900 million in FTC scholarships. Which companies provide the money? Want to know more?
The three Florida lawsuits oppose spending Florida tax dollars, directly or indirectly for private school scholarships. The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that taxes could not be used to provide scholarships to private schools. Lawmakers quickly devised an indirect method to accomplish the same thing. Corporations could get tax credits for donating to foundations that provide the scholarships. Some direct payments from legislative funds are still used to support McKay Scholarships for students with disabilities and the new Parent Learning Accounts for students with severe disabilities.
Three Current Lawsuits
Faase vs Scott was thrown out of court. The judge said that the complaint over the log rolling method used to pass the expansion of the voucher system in the 2013 legislative session (SSB850) was not sufficient basis for continuing the suit.
McCall vs. Scott is the suit in which the League of Women Voters was a plaintiff. This suit contended that the Florida Tax Credit Scholarships are unconstitutional. They are simply a work around for the prior Opportunity Scholarships that the Florida Supreme Court declared unconstitutional. The Florida Supreme Court declined to hear the case in January 2017.
Citizens for Strong Schools vs. Department of Education has been in the courts for a long time. It charges that Florida does not meet its constitutional requirement to provide a ‘uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality’ system of free public schools. The FLWV Board voted to join this lawsuit, but the Court disallowed it because the petition came too many years after the suit was filed.
The Money Behind the FTC Scholarship Program
The Tampa Bay Times’ article featured the big money advocates for the voucher program including venture capitalist John Kirtley who is funneling money to campaigns in Democratic primaries where there may be support ( e.g. black churches with private schools). He is Chairman of Step Up for Students, the foundation that distributes the scholarships. The article cites a number of other advocacy groups including the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
According to Fund Education Now, Walgreens, United Health Care, ATT, and Budweiser are FTC contributors. In addition, Step Up for Students reported 200 other business contributors including Health Care America, Premier Beverage, and Winn-Dixie. The article states that over $900 million has been donated since 2002.
Other States’ Voucher Legislation
This National Conference on State Legislatures site provides a state by state review of voucher legislation.
A 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld tax credit vouchers in Arizona.