Florida’s Pre-K bill hasn’t even been signed into law yet, and already it could be headed for a showdown in court. The proposal allows state funding for church-based Pre-Ks.
Larry Spalding of the American Civil Liberties Union says the Florida constitution clearly forbids the state from using tax dollars to help religious institutions.
"The legislature, the majority party, believes very strongly in government-funded religion. The two principles hit head-on."
Debate came to a head on the house floor, where democrats said church-based programs will be able to shut out students who don’t share their religion.
"And possibly violate our students’ civil rights."
"But the reality is, Florida can’t make a statewide pre-k program happen without using its church-based programs. There just aren’t enough non-religious Pre-Ks out there to absorb as many as 100,000 students by next fall."
We asked Republican David Murzin about the separation of church and state.
"You don’t see any constitutional problems here?”
“Not at all. Of course, I pride myself on not being a lawyer, and there may be some lawyer out there who thinks there’s a problem. “
Jeb Bush seems willing to take the risk. He vetoed the first Pre-K bill last spring, but he’s ready to make this one work.
"It’s a good, solid bill and it will be one that we can implement, which is important."
The governor’s already taking his school voucher fight all the way to the state supreme court. He may find himself there with Pre-K too, unless lawmakers convince voters to change the constitution.