The Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Holmes v. Bush, a case challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s statewide school voucher program. Lower courts have determined it’s unconstitutional. The Florida Court of Appeals agreed it violates the “no aid” clause of the state Constitution, which states public funds cannot be used to aid sectarian institutions. State Supreme Court justices asked lawyers to explain how the state can constitutionally divert money from public to private schools under the nation's first statewide school voucher program. Funding is one of two key issues in the legal challenge over Florida's 1999 school voucher law. One is taxpayer money heading to private schools. The other is whether the law violates the separation of church and state by allowing students to use vouchers to attend religious schools. That's the choice for more than half of the 700-plus voucher students. The Florida Catholic Conference filed a brief in the case – hoping to keep the program in place. Larry Keough is legislative advocate for Florida’s Catholic schools.
“All of us will have watchful eyes on what’s happening in Tallahassee at the Florida Supreme court level. If the program were to be deemed unconstitutional we would make a serious consideration to do what we can to ensure that these children will remain in Catholic schools and receive an education.”
People For the American Way Foundation is co-counsel to the plaintiffs in the case, and joins the Florida Teaching Profession-NEA, the ACLU, the American Jewish Congress, and other organizations representing parents and taxpayers against Florida’s voucher program. Governor Jeb Bush and other voucher supporters warn many other educational and social programs could be threatened if the state’s highest court rules against the voucher law. The decision could come sometime this summer.
Wednesday, 08 June 2005 01:00