Daily Egyptian, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Tuesday, June 22, 1999, p. 7
Florida first to allow state-paid tuition for kids in private schools
by Mark Silva, Knight-Ridder Newpapers
Tallahassee, Fla. - With Gov. Jeb Bush's signature Monday, Florida became the first in the nation with a statewide plan allowing state-paid tuition for children in private schools.
Florida also becomes the newest battleground for a constitutional battle over "tuition vouchers," a lawsuit challenging the governor's "A-Plus" plan for education promised in Tallahassee today.
"This is the first truly statewide voucher program in the country," said Howard Simon, director of the ACLU in South Florida, one of the many banding to challenge the law. "Ultimately, this is going to have to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court."
The law, overwhelmingly approved by Florida's Republican-run Legislature, will assign every public school a grade from A - F based on test scores and other factors - the state promising grades by month's end.
This fall, only students in two low-scoring schools in Pensacola will qualify for what the law calls "opportunity scholarships." By the following fall, children in many more schools throughout the state may qualify.
"We're in for a renaissance in public education, trusting parents in a way that has never happened in this counrty, " said Bush, signing the law at a high-achieving Raa Middle School, where he proposed the plan in his campaign for governor last year. As other states debate tuition vouchers - offered for low-income children in Milwaukee's public schools for several years - Florida becomes the first with a plan that could reach statewide within the next year.
The law's opponents - including Florida's teachers' unions, the PTA, ACLU, NAACP, American Jewsish Congress and People for the American Way - are counting on another, 30-year-old provision of Florida's Constitution: "No revenue of the state ... shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect or religious denomination."
"It is absurd to say that what the voters did in November is a basis for vouchers in private and parochial schools, " said the ACLU's Simon. "It doesn't say everybody has a right to an education anyplace in the world."
****************************************************** * Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA Fax: (618)453-4244 Phone: (618)453-4241 (office) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org