August 21, 2014

Teachers' union opposes law to help the disabled

By Mark Miller Senior Attorney

union opposes help for disabled Sometimes I fall into the trap of believing that teachers’ unions think they have the best interests of the children when they oppose school choice initiatives, but then I remember that such a belief is a fairy tale.  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.

Case in point: the Florida Education Association and its most recent ill-conceived lawsuit opposing school choice.

Earlier this year, Governor Rick Scott of Florida signed into law a bill that in part provides families with disabled children much-needed financial assistance to educate their K-12 special-needs students. The law creates personal learning scholarship accounts that are funded with public money and designed for students with disabilities. The law allows parents to choose the best way to spend that money to achieve the best education possible for their students. 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 will help children who have autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Spina bifida, Williams syndrome, other intellectual disabilities, and kindergartners who demonstrate developmental delays.

It’s hard to imagine that anybody, much less a teacher’s union, could oppose an effort to help Florida’s families choose the best way to educate their differently-abled children, but that’s exactly what the Florida Education Association chose to do.  The union, through one of its members, sued the State of Florida and attacked the law as unconstitutional.

Why is the law unconstitutional? Well, try and stay with me.  The union believes the law unconstitutional because, besides helping parents of the disabled to choose the best way to educate their children, the law also implements other positive changes to Florida’s education system, as well.  The union says that is improper.

If you had trouble following the logic of that argument, you’re not alone. Parents of disabled children in Florida have already come out against the lawsuit, and Pacific Legal Foundation expects that more organizations interested in educating Florida’s students, and not interested in protecting union power, will oppose the union’s lawsuit, as well.

PLF applauds the Florida Legislature’s effort to allow tax money to support school choice, and PLF continues to stand on the side of parents, school choice, and legislative efforts to allow parents to direct tax money in ways that maximize the benefit for their children’s education.

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