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Public School Groups Sue to Limit Public's Educational Options

September 2, 2014 in Economics

By Andrew J. Coulson

Andrew J. Coulson

Last week, Florida’s state school establishment sued to kill an education tax credit program that benefits 60,000 low income, mostly black and Hispanic children. The credits cut taxes on businesses that donate to non-profit scholarship organizations, and those organizations help needy families who want to send their children to private schools. Studies show performance gains for both the students who switch to private schools and the students who remain in public schools, and taxpayers save tens of millions of dollars every year. The tax credits thus create a win-win-win scenario.

But Florida’s teachers union, school administrators association, and school boards association want to kill the program anyway. In their legal complaint, they claim that the credits violate state constitutional provisions forbidding public spending on religious schools and requiring a “uniform” public school system. Before getting to the merits of these claims, it is worth pointing out that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue in the first place.

Before courts will hear a lawsuit, plaintiffs must establish “standing” by showing that they have been injured in some concrete way. But on the same day that the Florida suit was filed, the New Hampshire supreme court ruled that plaintiffs in that state did not have standing to file suit against their education tax credit program. And in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same conclusion with respect to a suit against Arizona’s education tax credits (ACSTO v. Winn). In both the NH and U.S. Supreme Court cases, the justices ruled that plaintiffs demonstrated no personal injury either financially or to their constitutional rights, so they were sent packing.

In short, the plaintiffs are not harmed by this program and the children and taxpayers of Florida are helped by it.”

In Florida, the public school plaintiffs have once again failed to demonstrate that they have been injured by the tax credit program. They imply that they have been forced to support religious schooling, but as the U.S. Supreme Court explained in ACSTO v. Winn, “that’s incorrect.”

tax credits and governmental expenditures do not both implicate individual taxpayers in sectarian activities. A dissenter whose tax dollars are “extracted and spent” knows that he has in some small measure been made to contribute to an establishment [of religion] in violation of conscience…. [By contrast,] awarding some citizens a tax credit allows other citizens to retain control over their own funds in accordance with …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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