ACLU Responds to Gov. Jeb Bush's Call for School Vouchers in Today's "State of the State" Address

March 2, 1999 12:00 am

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Statement of Howard Simon
Executive Director
ACLU of Florida

Tuesday, March 2, 1999

MIAMI–Like all Floridians, the American Civil Liberties Union supports the high priority Governor Jeb Bush has placed on education. Many of the reforms he has proposed, such as testing both students and schools, and increasing the budget for construction and maintenance of K-12 facilities, are commendable and may be effective in improving the neighborhood public schools — where most Florida families will continue to choose to send their children.

But it is simply not honest to pretend that both the U.S. Constitution and the stricter requirements of our state Constitution, does not prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for sectarian education.

Vouchers are not a program for the improvement of public education. Instead they are intended to encourage the abandonment of public schools and divert tax dollars to parochial schools.

The Florida Constitution, Article I, the Declaration of Rights, Section 3, Religious Freedom, states unequivocally that “…no revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”

This is a subject that demands more candor and less euphemism. The vast majority of so-called ‘private’ schools are sectarian parochial schools. The Governor does not aid in the public understanding of this issue by insisting on the euphemism of ‘opportunity scholarships.’ Vouchers are no more and no less than religious school subsidies.

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