Group Files Amicus Brief Defending State’s Tax-Credit Scholarships

By Jessica Bakeman | Politico Florida

Published: Dec. 14, 2015

If Florida’s teachers union is successful in its challenge of the state’s tax-credit scholarship program, black and Hispanic children will suffer, a national education advocacy group argued in an amicus brief on Monday.

The Black Alliance for Educational Options, a national nonprofit advocacy group representing black educators and civil rights activists, filed the brief with the First District Court of Appeal, where the Florida Education Association has appealed a lower court’s decision in its 2014 lawsuit targeting the tax-credit scholarship program. Under the program, corporations get a 100 percent credit for donations to nonprofits that grant scholarships to help low-income students attend private schools.

“The insufficiency of Appellants’ alleged injury is highlighted when contrasted with the harm Appellants threaten to visit upon low-income, mostly Black and Hispanic students if their complaint prevails,” the advocacy group wrote in the brief. “The termination of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program would disrupt the education of almost 80,000 students. These scholarship students are from Florida’s neediest families — and research reveals that the vast majority of these students were struggling academically in the public school system. The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program offers these students the opportunity for a good education.”

FEA’s appeal follows Leon County Circuit Court judge George Reynolds’ May ruling that the union does not have legal standing to challenge the scholarship program, because it’s funded with private donations rather than tax dollars collected and appropriated by the state. The union, like others around the country, has argued the program diverts dollars from the public school system to private schools, some of which offer religious instruction.

Reynolds made a similar ruling last week in another, larger lawsuit from advocacy groups Citizens for Strong Schools and Fund Education Now. Those groups also plan to appeal his ruling.

A spokesman for FEA did not immediately return a request for comment.

Read the amicus brief here: