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Florida Court Finds School Voucher Program Unconstitutional

A Florida appeals court ruled yesterday that a school voucher program violates the state’s constitutional separation of church and state. The court found that the “vast majority” of students using vouchers under the 1999 law enrolled in religious schools that are barred from receiving state funds under Florida’s constitution, according to the New York Times. The estimated 800 students currently enrolled in the program will be unaffected while the Florida Supreme Court reviews the case, the Miami Herald reports. The case has national significance, according to Ayesha Khan, legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, because “two-thirds of the states have constitutional protections that are similar to Florida’s. This ruling is certain to discourage enactment of voucher plans in those states as well.” Ron Meyer, the lead attorney for the teachers unions and civil rights groups that challenged the law, hailed the 2-1 decision as “a monumental win for taxpayers,” according to the Herald. “We welcome the opportunity for Florida’s highest court to put an end to this voucher scheme and halt the siphoning of taxpayer money from Florida’s public schools to unaccountable voucher schools,” he continued. The dissent came from the only appointee of Florida Governor Jeb Bush on the appeals court panel. The decision in the court case affects the smallest and oldest of Florida’s three voucher programs, which together allow 25,000 students to attend private schools using public funding, the Herald reports. More than three-fourths of those students attend religious schools. Meyer has vowed to continue fighting Florida’s other voucher programs, according to the St. Petersburg Times. DONATE to support FMF’s work to achieve gender equality in education

Sources:

New York Times 8/17/04; Miami Herald 8/16/04; St. Petersburg Times 8/17/04; Americans United release 8/16/04

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