Florida Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against State Scholarships for Private-School Students

NEW YORK -

Yeshivos, parents and students in Florida celebrated another school-choice victory on Tuesday as an appellate court dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the state’s funding of tax-credit scholarships for low-income students.

The state of Florida provides a tax-credit scholarship of nearly $6,000 per student for children from families below an income threshold who attend certified private schools in the state. In the last year alone, $70 to$80 million worth of scholarships were distributed to private schools, including $11 million to yeshivos, under the program.

A group of plaintiffs, led by the Florida Education Association teachers union, had sued the state, arguing that the scholarships were an unconstitutional diversion of state funds from public education.

However, the First District Court of Appeal upheld a lower-court ruling that the plaintiffs lacked the standing to bring the suit, as they had failed to demonstrate any harm resulting from the state’s scholarship program.

This is but the latest of several instances in which courts have ruled that the teachers union lacked standing to challenge the scholarship program. The teachers union may now appeal to the state supreme court.

In their ruling, the appellate judges said that this is a “quarrel with the Legislature’s policy judgment regarding school choice and funding of Florida’s public schools,” and “not a matter for the court to wade into,” but one that should be left for the ballot box.

Agudath Israel of Florida was among several pro-school-choice organizations that celebrated Tuesday’s court ruling.

“Florida’s students were once again vindicated by the courts” said Rabbi Moshe Matz, executive director of Agudath Israel of Florida. “Nearly 80,000 low-income students, including those in Jewish schools, benefit from the scholarship tax-credit program. It is time for the unions to simply drop the lawsuit and allow these children to receive an education in the setting chosen by their parents.”