Tampa Bay Times: Judge deals blow to opponents of tax credit scholarship program


Jeffrey S. Solochek, Times Staff Writer

Monday, May 18, 2015 4:43pm

Opponents of a controversial program that directs would-be tax dollars to private schools suffered a setback Monday as a Leon County judge threw out a legal challenge to its constitutionality.

Circuit Judge George Reynolds III ruled that the Florida Education Association, the Florida School Boards Association and other plaintiffs had no legal standing to bring the case against the nation’s largest private school choice program. His rationale: The way the program is funded, often referred to as a voucher system, doesn’t use government vouchers at all.

Rather, Reynolds stated, the multimillion-dollar program gets its income from corporations that receive tax credits for giving money to an outside organization that provides scholarships to lower-income students. Those students — about 70,000 of them and growing — then attend private schools, most of them religious.

In other words, it’s not state money.

“In this case, plaintiffs object to tax credits extended to third parties,” the judge wrote. “Because plaintiffs do not challenge a program funded by legislative appropriations, plaintiffs do not have taxpayer standing to bring this action.”

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