March 2017 Church & State - March 2017

Fla. Supreme Court Won’t Permit Tax Credit Challenge

  AU admin

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that Americans Uni­ted and teachers’ unions don’t have the legal right to challenge a 15-year-old tax credit scholarship program that sends taxpayer money to private, often religious schools. 

The Florida Education Association (FEA), Americans Uni­ted and other groups argued that the voucher-like scholarships program violates the state constitution because it diverts public education money to private religious schools. But the Florida high court ruled that the groups that brought the case lack legal “standing” – that is, the right to sue.

The program rewards Florida businesses with dollar-for-dollar tax credits if they donate to certain organizations like Step Up for Students, which funds private school scholarships.

 “We’re baffled that the courts would deny taxpayers the right to question state expenditures,” FEA President Joanne McCall said in a Jan. 18 press release. “This decision has ramifications beyond this challenge to a voucher program.”

The McCall v. Scott lawsuit was filed on behalf of 12 plaintiffs, including Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, former president of Americans United’s Board of Trustees; the Rev. Harry Parrott Jr., president of AU’s Clay County Chapter; and the Rev. Harold Brockus, former president of AU’s South Pinellas County Chapter. Other plaintiffs include the Florida Association of School Administrators, the League of Women Voters’ Florida affiliate and the Florida State Conference of Branches of NAACP.

McCall said that while the legal battle may be over, the FEA will continue to find ways to oppose the program. 

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