Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Florida politicians set to defy state Supreme Court on vouchers

Here's a fascinating article that highlights the political philosophy of too many politicians: do whatever it takes, even if you are overstepping your bounds.

Voucher allies see setback, plot foil

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau

Thursday, March 24, 2005

TALLAHASSEE — State GOP leaders are looking for ways to "circumvent" an expected ruling by the Florida Supreme Court against the state's first school voucher program, a top senator said Wednesday.

Former Senate President Jim King, explaining his long-running attempt to put some financial and academic oversight on the state's voucher programs to a Senate committee, said his staff is also working with other leaders to undo the effects of an anticipated court ruling.

"We are operating under the philosophy that the Supreme Court will rule against us, and we're trying to figure out some way to circumvent it," King told the Senate Government Appropriations Efficiency Committee.

The Opportunity Scholarship program, created by Gov. Jeb Bush under his A-plus education plan, has been ruled unconstitutional by the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee because it allows state money to go to religious schools.

The state often gives great deference to that appeals court because it is recognized as having particular expertise on constitutional questions.

But Bush has appealed the appellate court ruling to the state's highest court and in the meantime is continuing to send 753 students who use that voucher to attend private schools, most of them religious.

Financial buffer proposed

King said he is considering creating a quasi-governmental entity, which would get state money, then would in turn pay for the vouchers to send children to private schools, including religious ones.

"In other words, you have a buffer. So instead of it going to parochial (schools), you create some omnibus — 'The Agency for a Better Private-Public Education,'" King said. "And you put the money there. We're thinking it might withstand an additional constitutional challenge because it isn't directly from a state account."

The lawyer who successfully argued the case on behalf of voucher opponents said King's scheme would not work because the state constitution forbids sending public money "directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution."

Ron Meyer said that while he was pleased that lawmakers have recognized they are likely to lose the Supreme Court appeal, he hoped they will stop trying to find ways to evade that prohibition.

"I would like to indulge in the idea that because they have all sworn to uphold the constitution, that rather than trying to get around it, they will instead comply with it," Meyer said.

Yeah, good luck. You haven't been following the news much latey, have you, Mr. Meyer? Because it's full of stories about Republicans flouting the law, the constitution, decisions of the court, the democratic process -- I could go on, but I'd only get depressed.

This is real simple people: Public funds CANNOT go to support religious organizations. If you are religious, you should be the first to support this principle (and law, might I add) because it is designed to protect you.

Where are the stories about programs in our schools to teach students how the democratic process really works? Or, in this case, doesn't.


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