Florida judge says vouchers violate state constitution
The Supreme Court may have ruled that there's no prohibition in the U.S. Constitution barring publicly funded vouchers for private and religious schools, but 47 state constitutions have "Blaine amendments" that explicitly ban funds for religious schools. There have been some recent victories over these Blaine amendments—see the recent Washington state case on state education scholarships—but for the most part they are the biggest obstacle to widespread use of school vouchers.
Yesterday, Florida Circuit Judge P. Kevin Davey ruled that the state's voucher program violated the state's constitution, which reads, "No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution."
"While this court recognizes and empathizes with the … purpose of this legislation—to enhance the educational opportunity of children caught in the snare of substandard schools—such a purpose does not grant this court authority to abandon the clear mandate of the people as enunciated in the constitution," Davey wrote. "The language is clear and unambiguous. 'There is scant room for interpretation or parsing."
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who called the 1999 voucher law one of his proudest achievements in office, says the state will appeal the decision. "Today's ruling puts in jeopardy the education of hundreds of children in Florida," he said. "It is my hope that those children will be able to continue to attend the schools their parents have chosen. … It's not fair to the parents who make these decisions. They think it's the best choice for ...1