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Circuit Judge George Reynolds tossed out the Florida Education Association’s (FEA) lawsuit against the state’s tax-credit scholarship program, which serves low income students. “Taxpayers can’t challenge the program because the money is not handed out annually by the Florida Legislature in the state budget,” ruled Reynolds. FEA argued the scholarship program is unconstitutional using the same reasoning as the Florida courts did when they overturned the previous state voucher program:
- It violated the state’s “paramount duty” to have a uniform and high quality system of “free public schools.”
- It violated a provision that says no aid may be given by the state to religious institutions.
FEA is fighting to force low income students to stay trapped in schools that are not serving their needs. Florida’s tax credit scholarships started in 2001 under then Gov. Jeb Bush (R). The details of how the program is funded can be found at the Florida Department of Revenue. The program allows “taxpayers to make private, voluntary contributions to nonprofit scholarship funding organizations and receive a dollar-for-dollar credit against specific Florida taxes.” There is a cap on these tax credits that increases every year based on the donation amounts of the previous year. The current cap is $447,265,625 and will rise to $559,082,031 for 2016–17. For students, the tax credit scholarship program has two income-based options for students:
- A scholarship worth up to $5,272 to help cover private school tuition and fees.
- A scholarship worth up to $500 to assist with transportation costs to attend a public school in a different county.
UPDATE: Although the teachers unions and many others call this program a voucher it is not. It is a tax credit scholarship program. To read more about the differences between vouchers, tax credit scholarship, and education savings accounts please read this article at Education Week’s blog Charters and Choice or read at this Cato Institute article.