Florida Court to Hear Arguments in Lawsuit Challenging School Voucher Scheme

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
July 9, 2002 12:00 am

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TALLAHASSEE, FL — A state court will hear arguments today on the constitutionality of Florida’s statewide school voucher program in a case brought by a legal team including the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

“”We fully expect the court to courageously uphold the state’s explicit prohibition in our Constitution against diverting tax dollars from needed improvements in neighborhood public schools to private schools, most of which are religious,”” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida.

The Florida voucher program is a portion of Governor Jeb Bush’s “”A+”” plan for education, which was adopted by the state legislature in 1999. The ACLU and other civil rights groups brought their lawsuit, Holmes v. Bush, in June 1999, arguing that Florida’s school voucher plan violates both the Florida Constitution and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

At issue is a provision in Florida’s Constitution which states: “”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 any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”” This provision has been part of Florida’s Constitution since 1885.

Since the Supreme Court recently upheld a Cleveland school voucher program under the federal constitution, the question of the constitutionality of Florida’s school voucher program now shifts to the state courts, the ACLU said.

Plaintiffs in the case include the Florida NAACP, Florida Congress of Parents and Teachers, and students and parents in the Pensacola public school system.

Background materials on the case are available at http://www.aclufl.org/schoolvouchers.html

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