Judge Dismisses FEA Lawsuit Over Vouchers, Disabled Student Learning Accounts

Dec 30, 2014

Three moms with disabled children stand with former state Sen. Al Lawson and Goldwater Institute Attorney Clint Bolick on July 31st 2014.
Credit LHatter / WFSU News

A lawsuit over a new program that grants personal learning accounts to students with disabilities has been tossed out by a trial judge.

The Florida Education Association, a teacher’s union, sued the Florida legislature over a new law expanding the state’s existing corporate tax scholarship program, which critics call school vouchers.  FEA attorney Ron Meyer argued the way the legislature adopted the expansion—by attaching it at the last minute to a more popular program that sets up financial accounts for disabled students—violated state law:

“It’s interesting even the House’s final analysis...points out in multiple places where these different provisions are not germane, are not reasonably connected to one another or the main purpose of the bill," Meyer said earlier in the year at a press conference announcing the lawsuit.

The Personal Learning Accounts were considered collateral damage. In late July the Goldwater Institute intervened in the case on the behalf of six families whose children could benefit from the new Personal Student Learning Accounts (PSLA’s) established under the law. In September a Leon County judge dismissed the FEA’s challenge. The judge initially ruled the plaintiff--a teacher--didn’t have standing, but gave the union 15 days to re-file its case.  

The union resubmitted its claim with three families, but Tuesday, the judge once again dismissed the case.

"The scholarship accounts allow families to customize education for their children's unique needs," said Clint Bolick, vice president of litigation at the Goldwater Institute, in a written statement.  "We hope this special-interest group will give these kids a break and stop trying to take opportunities away from them."

School Choice groups have pushed the FEA to drop a larger case challenging the constitutionality of programs like the Corporate Tax Scholarship Program, but the FEA is still moving forward. A coalition of other groups are also contesting the funding aspect of public education—and both cases are still tied up in court.

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