Florida Supreme Court Rules Vouchers Unconstitutional

Ruling a victory for Florida public schools and students, defeat for Jeb Bush voucher scheme and national voucher movement

The Florida Supreme Court today ruled 5-2 that the state’s voucher program (which the state called the “opportunity scholarship program”) violates the requirement of the Florida constitution that obligates the state to provide all students with a high quality education through a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools.” People For the American Way Foundation was co-counsel to the plaintiffs challenging the voucher plan.

“This is a tremendous victory for schools and students in Florida,” said People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas. “It’s always been good policy to focus public resources on strengthening public schools. Today the Florida Supreme Court said state officials must take seriously the educational requirements of the state Constitution.”

“We urge Governor Jeb Bush to abandon his long fight to privatize education in the state and undermine voter-approved limits on class size,” said People For the American Way Foundation Vice President and Florida Director Jorge Mursuli. “It’s time for the governor and state legislators to focus on improving access to quality public education for all Florida children.”

Neas said today’s ruling was also a blow to the national voucher movement, which has failed to build momentum for widespread adoption of schemes to divert public tax dollars into private education in spite of a massively funded political effort spanning more than two decades. Several state supreme courts have struck down voucher programs despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that the Ohio voucher plan did not violate the First Amendment.

“Americans want all kids to have access to the strongest public schools possible,” said Neas. “Vouchers are an expensive and ineffective distraction from that goal. They deserve to be abandoned. And now in Florida they must be.”

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