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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Bye, bye Blaine?



Ever since Florida's courts overturned the state's education voucher, or "opportunity scholarship," program as unconstitutional, voucher proponents have sought to put the concept back into law. One of the hurdles, however, has been Article I, Section 3 of the constitution, known as the Blaine Amendment, which states: "No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution."

Patricia Levesque, a former Jeb Bush aide who now runs his Foundation for Florida's Future education think tank, hopes to use her spot on the state Taxation and Budget Reform Commission to knock that particular hurdle down. She's already submitted a proposal to overturn that amendment, and she's working on another that would deal specifically with allowing vouchers.

Levesque suggests that, taken to its logical extremes, the Blaine amendment as interpreted by the courts in Bush v. Holmes (see appeal court decision here and Supreme Court decision here) could have dire consequences for all sorts of education programs that Floridians rely upon:

When students get a Bright Futures scholarship, they can choose any public or private program to go to, as long as it meets certain criteria on accreditation and stuff like that. Right now, students can take their Bright Futures scholarship and they can either go to the University of Florida or go to Tallahassee Community College or FSU. But they can also choose to go to St. Leo University. They can choose to go to Clearwater Christian College. ... A challenge to those programs based on the recent appellate court decision, if you apply the same logic, then those are not allowable options. ...

And it's not just Bright Futures. It would be their need-based aid, too. The state provides need-based aid to students to go to faith-based institutions. Look at the Florida Resident Access Grants. FRAG is eligible for any student who is a Florida resident and wants to go to a private college. ... I believe citizens should be able to participate in any type of entity to get their public programs fulfilled.

Visit the Gradebook at noon Saturday for a more in-depth interview with Levesque about her views.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:31am]


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