Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Group will sue to keep voucher questions off ballot

A group of public education advocates is expected to file a lawsuit today in Tallahassee asking that two private school voucher measures be struck from the November ballot.

The plaintiffs — including a state teachers union and associations for school boards and superintendents — say both Amendments 7 and 9 should be scrapped. They contend the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission exceeded its constitutional authority in proposing them.

Both ballot measures seek to rewrite language in the Florida Constitution that was used by the courts to strike down Opportunity Scholarships, the first and most controversial of the three voucher programs created under then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

The amendments "have nothing to do with taxation or the state budgetary process," says the suit, a copy of which the plaintiffs provided early to the St. Petersburg Times. "They deal rather with the separation of church and state, (and) Florida's obligation to provide for the education of its children through a system of free public schools."

In addition, the suit says, Amendment 9 should be removed because its ballot title and summary are misleading.

The lawsuit is the latest salvo in Florida's nine-year battle over vouchers, which allow students to attend private school using public money. Florida has about 39,000 students on vouchers — more than any other state.

The suit's arguments are ludicrous, said Greg Turbeville, a commission member and former policy director for Bush.

"Education spending is the state's top priority, so why shouldn't" the commission deal with it? he asked. "That's an argument they're going to have a tough time supporting."

In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court struck down Opportunity Scholarships. Since then, Bush and/or his proxies, including allies on the taxation and budget commission, have pushed to revive the program and legally insulate the remaining two voucher programs. One is for disabled children, the other for poor children.

Amendment 7 would nix the "no aid" language in the state Constitution that bars state money from going to religious institutions. An appeals court struck down Opportunity Scholarships on those grounds.

After the Bush administration appealed, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Opportunity Scholarships violate a constitutional mandate for a "uniform" system of free public schools. Amendment 9 would mitigate that language.

But in a move that outraged critics, Amendment 9 would also require school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their money in classrooms — a second policy that critics contend was added to the measure to sweeten the pot for voters who don't support vouchers.

The lawsuit takes aim at the ballot title, "Requiring 65 percent of school funding for classroom instruction; state's duty for children's education."

"I think they're right," said state Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, who served on the commission but voted against putting Amendment 9 on the ballot. "My fear has been that we would become known as the Voucher Commission as opposed to the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission."

Turbeville's take: Both proposals deal with education spending, so "there's a logical connection."

The suit will be filed in Leon Circuit Court. The plaintiffs have scheduled a press conference for this morning.

Constitutional amendments need support from 60 percent of voters to pass.

Ron Matus can be reached at matus@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8873.

Group will sue to keep voucher questions off ballot 06/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 16, 2008 4:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. What you need to know for Tuesday, June 27

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Former St. Petersburg mayor and current mayoral candidate Rick Baker, left, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman square off tonight in a debate. [Times]
  2. Once 'angry' about Obamacare, Republican David Jolly came to see it as 'safety net'

    Blogs

    Former Congressman David Jolly, who ran against Obamacare in 2013, said in an interview Monday night that he now considers it a "safety net."

  3. Five children hospitalized after chlorine release at Tampa pool store

    Accidents

    Five children were sickened at a pool store north of Tampa on Monday after a cloud of chlorine was released, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

  4. Deputies find unidentified decomposing body in Dunedin canal

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff's deputies found an unidentified male body floating in a Dunedin canal Monday afternoon, the Sheriff's Office said.

  5. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.