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Legal Challenge to Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program

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Emory Maiden via Flickr Creative Commons

Appeals court judges heard oral arguments last week in the latest phase of a legal battle challenging Florida’s tax credit scholarship program that helps children from low income families attend private schools.  The program offers tax credits to businesses who make donations to non-profits that provide private school scholarships to poor students.  The program currently serves nearly 70,000 students, the majority of which attend religious schools.  

The Florida Education Association, which is the state teachers’ union, filed the lawsuit with the support of the Florida NAACP. They argue the program diverts tax revenue away from public education to private schools and that it violates the Florida constitution’s mandate to provide a uniform and high quality system of free public education.  The First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee is considering an appeal after a Leon County Circuit Court judge ruled last year that the FEA didn’t have legal standing to bring the complaint.  Groups like the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the Florida African American Ministers Alliance for Parental Choice are urging the FEA to drop the lawsuit.  They say the tax credit scholarship program provides high quality educational opportunities to minority students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them.  We’ll hear from both sides.

Guests:

Mark Coats, President/CEO of Grace Christian Preparatory/Pastor of Grace of God Baptist Church in Miami 

John Kirtley, Governing Board Member for Step Up For Students/Co-founder of KLH Capital

Joanne McCall, President of the Florida Education Association

John Davis has been a full-time Reporter/Producer for WGCU since 2009. He is the local host for NPR’s Morning Edition and producer and host for WGCU’s radio talk program Gulf Coast Live! John came to WGCU as an intern in 2007, and is now reporting on a broad spectrum of topics of interest to Southwest Florida.  Prior to joining WGCU, he worked at WDUQ-FM in Pittsburgh, PA covering local government and general assignments.John studied journalism at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, before earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from Florida Gulf Coast University. His work has garnered awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania, the Radio Television Digital News Association, and a first place award and “Best in Show” from the Florida Associated Press for his investigative work in 2011.