"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, April 06, 2008

School Vouchers Dead, Again, in Florida

Just as in a bad horror movie, this monster just don't want to stay dead. Well, it's dead now at least for a few years in Florida. From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, April 5:

The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission defeated the second of a two-part plan to remove constitutional bars to Bush's "Opportunity Scholarships" in Florida. That plan was found unconstitutional in 2006. It was the nation's first statewide voucher program. At its peak, only about 700 students received the vouchers.

The Florida Supreme Court found the Opportunity Scholarships were unconstitutional in 2006, ruling that the plan violated the constitutional ban requiring a "uniform" K-12 education system by using taxpayer funds for nonpublic schools.

Friday's proposal would have given voters in November the chance to change the constitution by allowing the state to fund other forms of K-12 education beyond the public school system.

The plan was defeated, 16-9, just missing the 17-vote threshold for passage.

Last week, the TBRC had cleared one potential legal hurdle for resurrecting Opportunity Scholarships by approving a November statewide referendum issue on eliminating the constitutional ban on using taxpayer money in church-run or religion-based programs.

The Supreme Court did not rule in 2005 on whether Opportunity Scholarships violated that ban. But a number of popular programs, including the pre-K program and the McKay scholarships for handicapped students, use state money for private and faith-based schools as well.

The TBRC meets every 20 years with the power to place constitutional amendments directly on the ballot.

While last week's vote on the wall between church and state gathered support as a defense for myriad state-funded programs like the McKay scholarship and faith-based prisons, the debate Friday was dominated by concerns that opening up funding for private schools with taxpayer money would dilute public education. . . .

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