FEA Re-files Voucher Lawsuit As School Choice Group Runs Pro-Voucher Ads

Oct 23, 2014

Denisha Merriweather, a grad student and Jacksonville resident, discusses her support for the state's tax credit scholarship program in a TV ad

A teachers union isn’t backing down from its legal challenges to the state’s largest school choice program.The Florida Education Association has re-filed a lawsuit questioning how lawmakers expanded the so-called school voucher system, and continues moving forward with another lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the overall program.

Viewers of the most recent Florida gubernatorial debate may have seen this ad, featuring graduate student and Jacksonville resident Denisha Merriweather, discussing her support for the state’s private-school scholarship program for low income families.

The ad, sponsored by the Black Alliance for Educational Options, urges the Florida Education Association to drop its lawsuits against the tax credit scholarship program. The program gives businesses tax credits for donating money to organizations that give private school scholarships to low and, now middle-income families. FEA Vice President Joanne McCall has been clear about the intent of that lawsuit. To put a stop to the tax credit program.

“People have a choice. If they want they can put their kids in private schools. That’s their right. But it’s not the public’s responsibility," McCall said when the lawsuit was first announced in August.

A separate lawsuit re-filed this week says the legislature’s way of increasing income eligibility—by bundling it up with another program giving extra funding to students with certain disabilities—violates the state’s single-subject rule for legislation. A judge initially ruled the plaintiff, a teacher, didn’t have standing. So the union re-filed the lawsuit with three families.

“We’re looking at more than 70,000 kids," says Allison Aubuchon is a spokeswoman for the Foundation for Florida’s Future, a pro school choice group. "When you look at the tax credit scholarship program and those being awarded personal learning scholarship accounts for kids with disabilities and unique needs that could be booted out of their schools or have these scholarships taken away. It’s pretty callous they could move forward with this.”

The FEA and the state legislature have been fighting over the tax credit scholarship program since its inception 13 years ago.