January 29, 2015

NSCW 2015 — Florida a national leader in school choice

By Mark Miller Senior Attorney

Florida provides a variety of school choice opportunities to parents, and in return the teacher unions spend inordinate amounts of time and money trying to kill these efforts to help working families. What I’ve said before I will say again: teachers’ unions, like other unions, exist to protect the interests of their members: teachers. Their own websites explain that the teachers’ unions serve the teachers’ interests, not the interests of the students.

Thankfully, the courts in Florida have recently begun rejecting these union schemes. Case in point #1: the Faasse v. Scott case. In this case, a Florida teacher, at the behest of his union, challenged a law that provides families with disabled children much-needed financial help to educate their special-needs students. The law creates personal learning scholarship accounts that are funded with public money and designed for students with disabilities. Parents may use the money in the account for private schools, speech pathologists, private tutors, virtual learning, or other options that fit their children’s needs. The scholarship program helps children who have autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Spina bifida, Williams syndrome, other intellectual disabilities, and kindergarteners who show developmental delays.

Despite the obvious benefits of such a law, the school union argued that the court should strike down the law, a result that would have hurt the very children the teachers teach each day. Thankfully, the local judge who heard the Faasse case rejected it because a teacher suffers no injury when parents and school children benefit from school choice opportunities.

But the union is nothing if not dogged in its determination to prevent parents from picking the best schools for their children. Which brings me to case in point #2: McCall v. Scott. In the McCall case, the  union asked the Florida courts to end a 13-year-old school choice scholarship program that serves 67,000 of Florida’s most economically disadvantaged schoolchildren. The union wants to kill the program because it is the nation’s largest private school choice program. They argue that the program violates the Constitution because of the way it purportedly shifts tax money to private schools. Unfortunately for the teacher’s union, the Supreme Court of the United States has already rejected that argument in a similar case. PLF is closely following the McCall case and looks forward to reporting on its likely demise in the future.

PLF applauds the Florida Legislature’s support for school choice. PLF continues to stand on the side of parents, school choice, and legislative efforts to allow parents to work within the law to maximize the benefit for their children’s education.

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