Opportunity Knocks: Florida Supreme Court Considers School Vouchers

The high court is considering whether or not the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program is constitutional.

Three pro-voucher groups filed friend-of-the-court briefs Monday.

Parents fear a ruling against vouchers could affect everything from the new pre-K program to bright futures scholarships.

Two of Angela Mack’s children use Opportunity Scholarships to attend a small private school. She says they were floundering at a struggling public school in a dangerous neighborhood, and the vouchers turned their lives around.

“Their grades have been excellent. A, B students from D, F students,” explains Mack.

Mack and her kids joined families from throughout Florida on the steps of the state Supreme Court. The high court is considering whether or not opportunity scholarships are constitutional because they let parents use state money for religious schools.

Families using other school choice programs fear the ruling could affect them too. Micelle Emery wants to use the state’s new pre-K program to send her little ones to a Christian school.

"Why should I lose my rights to send my children to a school that promotes the values and the level of education and the safety that are important to me simple because that school is religious?" Emery says.

But those who believe Opportunity Scholarships are unconstitutional say the program takes money away from public schools, money that could go to fix some of the problems that resulted in the program to begin with.

State Rep. Curtis Richardson thinks Florida has been short-changing its public schools for years.

“We’re taking money away from that system, funding private schools, now funding home-schoolers, and we’re not fulfilling our responsibility to the public schools in this state,” Richardson says.

Jeb Bush’s first brief defending opportunity scholarships is due Tuesday at the Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the Opportunity Scholarship case this spring. There are 690 students who use Opportunity Scholarships.