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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

FEA has no plan to abandon challenge of tax credit scholarships, union president says

A circuit judge's ruling against claims that Florida failed to provide a uniform and high quality public school education had Senate president Andy Gardiner celebrating the affirmation of lawmakers' role, and more.

In a prepared statement, Gardiner proclaimed that the judgment supported "the constitutionality of school choice options that allow tens of thousands of low-income children to attend private schools and provide parents of children with unique abilities the option to choose the educational format best suited to their child's needs."

He added that the judge "specifically rejected claims made by the Plaintiffs by stating that the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship does not divert funds or have any detrimental impact on public schools."

In his own words, the judge wrote:

"The Court has already held that Plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the FTC Program, and the Court further concludes that the weight of the evidence does not support their speculative allegations that the FTC Program diverts state funding or has any material, detrimental effect on Florida's system of public schools.

"The weight of the evidence similarly does not support Plaintiffs' allegations about the McKay Program, which is limited to 'Students with Disabilities' and requires eligible students to have an individual educational or accommodation plan under federal law. ... As indicated by the Florida Supreme Court, parental decisions to send individual children with special needs to private school do not implicate the uniformity of the broader public school system -- regardless of whether some of those parents accept scholarship funds from the State."

None of which is convincing to the Florida Education Association, which has challenged the tax credit scholarship program in court, to back away.

FEA president Joanne McCall told the Gradebook the organization has no intention of backing away from its lawsuit challenging the scholarships, which she contends take money away from the public schools.

According to the state constitution, lawmakers are to create a public schooling system, "not a parallel system," she said. McCall expected to learn soon whether the courts will grant the FEA standing to continue its challenge, and said if that standing is awarded, the FEA will take its concerns to the trial court and "actually debate the case on its merits."

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 3:31pm]


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