Possible Supreme Court challenge looms for strongly supported private school tax credit case

By Michelle de Leon | Oct 8, 2016

TALLAHASSEE -- Despite the possibility of a Supreme Court challenge to the ruling on the private school tax credit case, parents and leaders supporting the cause remain optimistic of the future. 

In the third attempt to eliminate the tax credit scholarship program of Florida, the Florida Education Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other plaintiffs questioned the constitutionality of the program. Although the advocates of the scholarship program have already expected the Supreme Court challenge, they expressed disappointment in the latest roadblock to their success. 

“We are very disappointed that the union will continue its effort to evict over 92,000 poor, mostly minority, children from schools that are working for them,” Bishop Victory Curry, who is part of the Save Our Scholarships movement, told the Sunshine State News. “These children were the worst performers at the public schools they left and now they are thriving. The union’s decision is wrong for the children and wrong for our public schools.”

According to the data provided by Step Up for Students, a state-approved nonprofit scholarship funding organization that supports the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program and the Gardiner Scholarship, more than 90,000 children have been part of the program, the largest enrollment since its inception.

Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up, noted that this number indicates the appreciation of the families on the availability of the program. 

"The options provided to help children gain access to private school education boost the chances of these participants to have a better future," Tuthill told the Tampa Bay Times

Tuthill said the group is proud to be part of the growing, bipartisan movement to strengthen public education.

"Florida is a national leader in expanding educational opportunities, and the latest numbers again show that parents appreciate the power to access additional options that can best serve their children," Tuthill told the Tampa Bay Times

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program was created in 2001 by the state’s legislature in an effort to provide more educational options for low-income children. This income-based program, which does not base its criteria on the children’s performance in school, but rather on a family’s financial capacity, allows beneficiaries to choose from two options.

They could either use the financial assistance provided to pay for private school tuition and fees or apply them to the transportation expenses involving the commute from their home to a public school located in another district.

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