Opponents call the program school vouchers, but the technical name is the Corporate Tax Scholarship program. It’s the subject of a lawsuit. Supporters of the program are pushing for the lawsuit to be dropped—most recently appealing to a statewide audience through a Super Bowl Ad.
The commercial features Valentin Mendez, a high school sophomore at La Progresiva, a private school in South Florida that opened 40 years ago. It has roots in Cuba.
“I think it [the ad] misses the point in the sense that the challenge we raised is a constitutional question," says Ron Myer, an attorney who represents the Florida Education Association—the state teacher’s union.
The FEA, state school board association and others call the corporate tax scholarship program unconstitutional.
The program gives businesses a choice—pay taxes or send the dollars to privately run organizations which hand out scholarships for students to attend private schools. Myer says while there is no guarantee those tax dollars would otherwise have gone to public schools, the program still amounts to a drain.
“What we allege in this case is you can’t take the money and instead of paying taxes, give it to a scholarship funding organization to pay for private school education when dollar-for-dollar, the same amount is being drained from public schools," Myer says.
About 70,000 students, mostly low-income and minority kids—attend private schools using the program. It’s supporters fear that if the case were to succeed, those students would lose their scholarships.
The courts will soon be weighing in. A Leon County Circuit Judge will hear arguments February ninth on whether Meyer’s group can actually bring the lawsuit—something called standing.. The state is arguing the program’s opponents don’t have it and is urging the judge to kick out the lawsuit.