Circuit Judge George Reynolds last week rejected attempts by plaintiffs in Citizens for Strong Schools, Inc. v. Florida State Board of Education, to shut down two state-created programs that use state funds to send children to private schools. One of the programs provides private school tuition to children with disabilities while the other provides state vouchers that allow children from low-income families to attend private schools, including religious schools. More than 108,000 children are enrolled in the programs.
The plaintiffs had maintained that the state had created an unconstitutional parallel system where schools get money but they don’t have to follow the same rules regarding curriculum and teacher qualifications. The judge rejected their position based on state and federal precedents that allow voucher funding for private schools where the decision to use the voucher for a particular school is that of the parent.
Meanwhile the plaintiffs’ main adequacy claims are moving forward. The suit, filed more than six years ago, has been delayed by numerous procedural motions that the defendants had filed. Plaintiffs argue that the state’s education “reforms” have benefited affluent students, but that inadequate funding has been provided to meet the needs of low income and minority students. A definite date in mid-March has now been set for the trial to begin.