Voucher Battle Goes On

To Brenda Shiner, the debate over whether Florida’s school voucher program violates the separation of church and state is very personal.

Her son Sam uses a Mackay Scholarship to attend a private school because he wasn’t getting the help he needed for dyslexia and ADD in the public system. Now, Shiner worries Mackay Scholarships could also disappear if the Supreme Court rules the state’s opportunity scholarships are unconstitutional.

Brenda says, “Our fear is that they won’t differentiate between the schools that do not have a religious affiliation and it would just shut the whole program down.”

She’s not alone. This week, Gov. Jeb Bush warned a ruling striking down the voucher program could shut off the flow of state cash to many programs with religious connections.

Gov. Jeb Bush says, “It could go into Medicaid funding where we reimburse hospitals, Mercy Hospital in Miami or Baptist Hospital in Pensacola. Our day care system is partially provided by churches as they provide quality day care.”

That could also impact church-based schools’ ability to accept students in the new pre-k program, but those who oppose using tax dollars for religious schools say the governor is just using scare tactics.

Larry Spalding is an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union and says, “I think what’s happening is you’re getting somewhat of a PR campaign directed at the Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court is likely to hear arguments on the controversial voucher case in the spring, with a ruling as early as this summer. Thousands of parents will be watching.