Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Voucher Wars: Latest Dispatches From The Front

In the on-going struggle over school vouchers, the supporters of vouchers have been delt a setback in Florida:
The Florida Supreme Court threw out the state's voucher system that allows some children to attend private schools at taxpayer expense, saying Thursday that it violates the state constitution's requirement of a uniform system of free public schools.

The 5-2 opinion struck down the Opportunity Scholarship Program, championed by Gov. Jeb Bush, effective at the end of the current school year. It was the nation's first statewide system of school vouchers in 1999.

About 700 children across Florida are using the program to attend a private or parochial school after transferring from public schools the state deems failing. It is part of a broader accountability program Bush instigated as one of his top priorities, including testing at virtually every level and a school grading system that offers performance-based rewards and punishments.

"I think it is a sad day for accountability in our state," Bush said. But he added the voucher program served a purpose because it "put pressure on school districts to focus on the underperforming schools."

The ruling did not directly affect nearly 30,000 students in two other Florida voucher programs for disabled and poor children, but opponents said it should serve as a precedent to challenge them and similar programs in other states.

Bush said he will look for ways to continue the voucher programs, including private funding, changing state law and amending the Florida Constitution.

"I don't think any option should be taken off the table," the governor said. "School choice is as American as apple pie in my opinion. ... The world is made richer and fuller and more vibrant when you have choices."

Chief Justice Barbara Pariente, writing for the majority, said the program "diverts public dollars into separate private systems parallel to and in competition with the free public schools," which are the sole means set out in the state constitution for educating Florida children.

Private schools also are not uniform when compared with each other or the public system and they are exempt from many standards imposed by law on public schools, such as mandatory testing, she added.
Just guessing, I would say that the fight over school vouchers is not over by a long-shot. The litigation over school vouchers will go on and on and on.

I think that it would be best if the Supreme Law Making Body Court would rule on this matter once and for all, one way or the other and be done with it.

Related: Joanne Jacobs,

Over at The Super's Blog, the Indiana School Superintendent has the skinny about proposed vouchers in the Hoosier State.
See this week's edition of The Carnival Of Education here and our latest posts over there.