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Vexing Vouchers

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

Nearly 26,000 students use scholarships from one of Florida’s three voucher programs. Many attend faith-based programs, but using state money for religious schools was ruled unconstitutional by an appeals court last week.

State Sen. Stephen Wise worries thousands of disabled and disadvantaged students will lose those scholarships if the state Supreme Court sides with the lower courts.

Sen. Stephen Wise, (R) Jacksonville, says, "Well, I think it’s choice and being able to get the kind of services you want for your child and [I] think that’s what we’re really talking about."

If the Florida Supreme Court strikes down the voucher law, legislators may try to do an end run and take the issue straight to the voters. There is plenty of precedent.

Lawmakers used a constitutional amendment this year to require parental notification of a teen’s pending abortion. State Rep. Dan Gelber thinks Republicans may try to use this new focus on moral values to push through an amendment to keep the voucher program intact. He hopes it backfires.

Rep. Dan Gelber, (D) Miami Beach, says, "I think high quality public schools is a value and I think the opinion of the lower court and hopefully the Supreme Court will advance values by putting more money into our public schools."

Gov. Jeb Bush says it’s too early to talk amendments.

"That's the first step is we hope the Supreme Court would overturn the decision, secondly it might allow for a legislative fix. Then again, it could require a constitutional change."

But he says he’s definitely appealing the voucher ruling to the state Supreme Court.


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