In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a Florida school-voucher program because it violated the state constitution. While that case was still working its way through the courts, the state legislature created a second program designed to accomplish the same ends as the voucher program through tax credits. Under this program, Florida awards dollar-for-dollar tax credits for contributions to “Scholarship Funding Organizations.” These “Scholarship Funding Organizations” then award scholarships for students to attend private schools.
In the years after the tax-credit program was created, the legislature greatly increased the program’s size and scope so that it diverted hundreds of millions of tax dollars to private schools. More than two-thirds of those private schools are religious, and well over three-quarters of the students participating in the program attend religious schools.
In August 2014, in cooperation with attorneys for the National and Florida Education Associations, we filed a challenge to the tax-credit program in Florida state court. Our clients included clergy, parents, educational associations, the Florida League of Women Voters, and the Florida NAACP. We argued that, like the voucher program held unconstitutional in 2006, the tax-credit program violates provisions of the state constitution pertaining to public education and the funding of religion.
The state moved to dismiss the case, and several Florida parents also moved to intervene to defend the tax-credit program. The trial court granted the motions to dismiss, holding that our clients lacked standing to challenge the program. We appealed this ruling to a state intermediate appellate court. In August 2016, that court upheld the trial court’s dismissal of our complaint. We asked the Florida Supreme Court to review this decision. In January 2017, however, it decided that it would not hear the case. This case is now concluded.