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Lawsuit Opposing School Voucher Expansion Is Thrown Out Again, Likely Ending Challenge

| December 31, 2014

The so-called tax-opportunity scholarship program, a voucher system, is run with very little oversight. (Masha Krasnova-Shabaeva)

The so-called tax-opportunity scholarship program, a voucher system, is run with very little oversight. (Masha Krasnova-Shabaeva)

A challenge to this year’s expansion of the state’s de facto school-voucher program was thrown out of court for a second time Tuesday, likely ending one of two legal threats to the system.


Leon County Chief Circuit Judge Charles Francis dismissed the lawsuit “with prejudice,” which essentially bars the suit from being filed again. The challenge, backed by the Florida Education Association, was seeking to reverse a 2014 law that packed together an expansion of eligibility for the voucher program with several other education measures.

Francis had ruled in September that the plaintiff in the lawsuit, East Lee County High School teacher Tom Faasse, didn’t have the legal right to file suit against the law unless Faasse could prove that the law specifically hurt him. But Francis gave Faasse a chance to file a new version of the lawsuit, the one that was rejected Tuesday.

“In order to sustain standing, the plaintiffs are required to allege sufficient facts to support a finding of special injury,” Francis wrote. “As currently pled, the amendment complaint for declaratory judgment also fails to allege a legally sufficient basis to sustain a finding of special injury and the court is of the opinion that further amendments to the complaint will not result in a legally sufficient complaint.”

Francis rebuffed claims by Faasse and two parents who joined the new lawsuit that the expansion of the Tax Credit Scholarship Program hurt them because it could lead to reduced funding for their schools. The program provides tax credits to companies that donate money to nonprofit entities that pay for children to go to private schools.

“We are pleased that Chief Judge Francis granted our office’s motion and upheld the law,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a brief statement issued by her office.

The Florida Education Association did not immediately comment on Francis’ action.

In the original lawsuit, Faasse contended that because the legislation at the center of the suit dealt with spending decisions, it could be challenged under the Florida Constitution’s requirement that each bill deals with a single subject.

But Francis sided with the state, which argued that, to fall under the constitutional provision, a lawsuit had to challenge a bill based on a constitutional limit on how the Legislature spends money. Francis said Faasse couldn’t sue just because the law he was challenging had an impact on the budget.

Francis’ rulings don’t affect a separate, broader challenge to the voucher program. That lawsuit, filed in August, draws on a 2006 ruling from the Florida Supreme Court that held the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program unconstitutional. That program was a purer version of a voucher system, using public money directly to fund private education for some students.

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15 Responses for “Lawsuit Opposing School Voucher Expansion Is Thrown Out Again, Likely Ending Challenge”

  1. YankeeExPat says:

    Florida as a state has the highest proportion of failed charter schools than any other state.

  2. Merrill Shapiro says:

    This is a wonderful article as far as it goes. But the “broader challenge” to the voucher scheme also relies on our country’s Conservative values.
    I became a plaintiff on behalf of Americans United for Separation of Church and State in this “broader challenge” because our state’s Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship scheme thumbs its nose at some core values of our country’s democracy as expressed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I of Florida’s Constitution. Four dollars out of every five spent by this program send children to religious schools. Florida’s Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship forces more than 10, 000 Flagler County Catholics to pay for the religious education of thousands of Seventh Day Adventists around the state while approximately 2,500 Flagler County Baptists are paying for the religious education of scores of Muslim students. Several thousand local Evangelicals in our community are paying for the religious education of Episcopalians while some 2500 local Jews are financially supporting curricula that teach that “God does not hear the prayers of Jews.”
    It’s time to dump this unnecessary government program!

  3. Anonymous says:

    You elected Rick Scott and his cronies and special interests, some of whom stand to make a pretty penny from this voucher program. So, Florida, now you will get what you will pay them through the nose for–which is, no better education than you would have gotten otherwise while robbing public schools of much needed funding from the general tax base.

    • Lancer says:

      You’re right because Charlie Crist didn’t have cronies or special interests???

      You might have been in la la land when we, in the US, had a recession a few years ago. You see, this “recession” really hurt the state of Florida and we had A LOT of foreclosures. You see, when homes get foreclosed on…property taxes go down. Guess what predominantly funds education? Yep, property taxes.

      So Scott made a tough decision: He made enemies of the mighty teachers unions by *GASP!* cutting education because our state’s property tax revenues were so hammered by high foreclosures.

      As our state climbs out and moves forward economically, funding will increase. Government spending should be based on how the private economy is doing…not vice versa.

      One day, my hope is for people to try and understand topics through logic and reasoning..and not through emotion and feelings.

  4. nomad says:

    Isn’t Rick Scott conservative? This is a “neoliberalism” policy not a “neoconservative” policy. Thank the liberals/democrats/progressives/bleeding hearts/whatever else they call themselves for this, for obamacare, for Wall Street bailout, for tax breaks to corporations, for subsidies to corporations, and for all the other corporate welfare programs. I guess the thinking is that what is good for one sector of society is good for all sectors of society, excluding the new poor class footing the bill for all these socialize perks they don’t benefit from.

    • Will says:

      Nomad, what are you talking about? Corporations have had tax breaks for years. The Wall St bailout started under President GW Bush. Please be more clear. Thanks.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      If you look up Neo-liberalism as an economic policy, it is the foundation of the Conservative Republican free-market Globalist agenda that has wrecked the economy for working folks like you and me. So even though it has at it’s root the word “Liberal” that made your knee jerk like that, it is far from a progressive policy that can possibly be called Liberal except by someone that doesn’t understand the term. Like you.
      Here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism. Educate yourself.

      But the fact you can try to pin the ” Wall Street bailout, for tax breaks to corporations, for subsidies to corporations, and for all the other corporate welfare programs” on Liberals show you have swallowed the Fox/Republican Kool-Aide. Once you have done that, I’m pretty sure you can’t be educated enough to train you to pee on the newspaper.

  5. Lancer says:

    Nothing says “freedom” like doing away with vouchers and forcing kids to go to failing schools, right?

    The US spends more money per child than almost every country in the world in our government schools…what are we getting for our investment???

    • Merrill Shapiro says:

      Lancer, your concern for kids who go to failing schools is admirable and I applaud you. But the answer is NOT to send kids to schools with teachers who aren’t required to have attended college, Nor is the answer to send kids to schools that aren’t required to provide testing for statewide and national norms. Nor is the answer to send kids to schools that teach that the earth is 10,000 years old and that the south really won the civil war!

      Yes, you are free to do as you are doing now,paying to send kids to schools to learn that Allah is the only God and that Mohammed is the Prophet of Allah. You are free to continue, as you are doing now, to send kids to schools that teach that slavery in the US was a good thing because it brought pagan blacks from Africa here to America where they could be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.

      But allow me my freedom, if you would, please, to NOT support such schools! Thanks in advance for your help!!

      • Lancer says:

        Merrill…

        Thanks for taking things to their illogical extreme! How’s that been working for you?

        When you choose to send your kid to a Christian school…color me shocked, but they are taught about Christianity.

        That goes for Muslim schools, Catholic schools, etc.

        That also means that when you send a kid to government schools, they are taught government is great…which isn’t doing much good either.

        I have more issues with 10th graders improperly spelling “computer” and not being able to make change for a dollar without a calculator. We rank very low in science and math internationally, Merrill, in our wonderful government schools and we spend more per student than, virtually, any country!

        As a whole, our American education system is antiquated from the calendar year… to what is taught…to how its taught. Then, you have the teacher’s unions whose primary focus is, not the kids, but maintaining the status quo.

        Parents should very well have a choice regarding education…it is their property taxes that fund the schools…is it not??? Taxes, Merrill, which first earned, then taken by the government.

    • Flatsflyer says:

      We spend more money for Defense than the next 50 Countries combined and what are we getting for it?

  6. Sherry Epley says:

    Right On Merrill!

    Yes, parents should have the right to send their children to a school of their choice, as long as they DO NOT use MY tax dollars to pay for their choices! It’s common knowledge that charter/religious schools do not , in general, provide better educated graduates, and that they provide the loop holes that take us back to segregated schools.

    If parents want a “private/religious” education for their children, they should finance that choice with THEIR private resources.

  7. Sherry Epley says:

    Right On Merrill!

    Yes, parents should have the right to send their children to a school of their choice, as long as they DO NOT use MY tax dollars to pay for their choices! It’s common knowledge that charter/religious schools do not , in general, provide better educated graduates, and that they provide the loop holes that take us back to segregated schools.

    If parents want a “private/religious” education for their children, they should finance that choice with THEIR private resources.

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