Public school supporters are taking their case against state private school funding to court.
The Florida Education Association is trying to drop the hammer on the state’s tax credit scholarship program. The teacher’s union, joined by other public school advocates, says the program is unconstitutional.
Gov. Rick Scott came out against the lawsuit. Scott, a school choice supporter, released a statement saying that the lawsuit was “unconscionable,” and the coalition was using children as a political ploy.
A similar state voucher program was struck down in 2006. The state gives dollar for dollar tax breaks to corporations for providing the private school scholarships.
“It is the Florida legislature’s paramount duty to fund public schools adequately so they make sure all students can achieve the American dream,” said Joanne McCall.
Shortly after the lawsuit was announced, school choice supporters made sure their voices were heard right outside of FEA’s building.
Abigail Rodriguez is one of the nearly 70,000 children in the state receiving a private school voucher.
“The education in private school is so much more advanced, and not only that, we have the opportunity in private schools that we can learn more about God,” said Rodriguez, a student at Potter's House Academy.
Faith-based learning as well as a lack of accountability are main issues that opponents have with the program.
“We support faith-based schools entirely, but they should do like everyone else, pay their own way,” said Rabbi Merrill Shapiro a separation of church and state advocate.
But Pinellas County Pastor Robert Ward said the bottom line is that the scholarships help kids.
“There’s some parts of our community that we need an alternative for,” said Ward of Mount Moriah Baptist Church.
More than $440 million from the state will be available for the program next year.