A single mother of six in inner-city Miami, Angela Mack struggles to provide her family with the basics. So she was overjoyed when her two oldest children received state-funded scholarships that enabled them to enroll in a private school.
Not only have Lincoln Marti's uniforms removed the pressure to dress for success, Mack's 16- and 17-year-olds benefit from stricter discipline and smaller class sizes.
"I see changes in my daughter's grades and motivation about going to school," says Mack, a food service worker with Head Start. "The same for my son."
However, whether the scholarships will last until graduation is in question after a state appeals court ruled in August that the scholarship program is unconstitutional. The state constitution prohibits any public money from going to religious institutions. More than 30 states have similar "Blaine amendments."
Instituted in 1999, Florida's Opportunity Scholarships were available to parents of students in substandard public schools. For the 2004-05 school year, stipends averaging $4,200 went to 732 students, with 385 enrolled in religious schools.
"Courts do not have the authority to ignore the clear language of the constitution, even for a popular program with a worthy cause," Judge William Van Nortwick wrote for the 2-1 majority.
Saying the governor tried to "spin" vouchers as a benefit for poor families, Florida Education Association attorney Ron Meyer lauded the court's ruling.
The case appears headed for the Florida Supreme Court, although the state asked for either a rehearing or arguments before the first district's full 15-judge panel.
In February the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the state of Washington's denial of a state scholarship for a theology student. No constitutional ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.