TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s tax-credit voucher system is “unconstitutional and threatens the education of our most at risk students by educating them on the cheap,” Deirdre Macnab, president of the Florida League of Women Voters, warned on the eve of another court hearing on the controversial private school program.
The lawsuit, filed by the Florida Education Association, alleges that tax-credit vouchers violate the state’s Constitution by creating a parallel education system and by directing tax money to religious institutions. The League is a co-plaintiff in the suit, which will have its next hearing Monday, Feb. 9, in front of Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds.
Macnab said vouchers blur the lines between church and state and create a parallel system of schools that have limited requirements regarding accountability, state-approved curriculum and teacher training.
“The Constitution of Florida specifically calls for a public system of high quality public education,” Macnab said. “Private and for-profit schools are using marketing messages to entice low income families to leave their public schools. The League says “BUYER BEWARE – these schools are separate AND unequal.”
The voucher program, known as the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, allows corporations to donate taxes they owe to the state to Step Up For Students or AAA the Scholarship Foundation. These are Scholarship Funding Organizations, designated as managers of the tax credit money and they allow the state to circumvent the separation of church and state rule.
Joanne McCall, FEA vice president, has vowed to take the union’s lawsuit to the state Supreme Court if necessary.
Alex Villalobos, Former Republican majority leader in the Florida Senate said “this program is taking critical public funding from our public schools and creating an unaccountable parallel system of private schools, which voters have turned down when given the opportunity.”by