Florida Supreme Court: Vouchers unconstitutionally divert public school funds
The Florida Supreme Court today ruled 5-2 that the state's Opportunity Scholarships Program (OSP) violates the Florida constitution, which requires "a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education."
The program "diverts public dollars into separate private systems parallel to and in competition with the free public schools that are the sole means set out in the Constitution for the state to provide for the education of Florida's children," Chief Justice Barbara Pariente wrote for the majority . "This diversion not only reduces money available to the free schools, but also funds private schools that are not 'uniform' when compared with each other or the public system. In sum, through the OSP the state is fostering plural, nonuniform systems of education in direct violation of the constitutional mandate for a uniform system of free public schools."
While this will have an effect on Florida's religious private schools that have participated in the statewide voucher program, the court didn't rule on whether the program violated the U.S. Constitution's ban on the establishment of religion. That claim was part of the original lawsuit against the voucher program, but the program opponents dropped it after the Supreme Court's 2002 decision supporting Cleveland's voucher system.
But opponents did continue to assert that the voucher system violated the Florida constitution's section separating church and state. "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 ...1
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