School Board Association drops lawsuit

The Florida School Board Association has dropped a lawsuit arguing that the state’s largest private school voucher program is unconstitutional.

Voting took place on Wednesday by the association’s Board of Directors against keeping the lawsuit alive. In May, Circuit Judge George Reynolds stated that the group’s filing of the lawsuit did not have “standing” or a legal right to challenge the voucher program.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) has not decided on whether to challenge the ruling by Reynolds as the rapidly approaching deadline to file an appeal is next week.

Supporters have mounted advertising and public relations campaigns that want the lawsuit to be dropped because of the impacts that it could have on families that use the vouchers.

Sagine Orphe, a mother of a student in Leon County Schools, is in support of the vouchers staying active.

“My daughter is not in the private school system, but students who are in private schools should not have to switch schools because of something that is out of their control,” argued Orphe. “If parents are able to get their kids into those schools, why not let them?”

The tax-credit scholarship program gives close to 70,000 students the opportunity to attend private schools. The program currently serves low-income families and will expand to middle-income families starting in 2016. This change has added even more attention to the legal battle. Taking the program away will force many parents away from private schools.

Alternatives to leaving private schools are home schooling and the public school system.

District Advisory Council Chair Johnitta Wells explained that members of the Leon County School District Advisory Council are doing the best that they can to ensure that students in the public school system are getting the most out of their educational experience.

“Parents, teachers and principals are able to come together and discuss policies before they go before the school board. So we kind of vet the policies before they go before the school board,” said Wells. “We get input from the teachers and the parents and principals to go over policies.”

Other members of the District Advisory Council vouch for their validity as well.  Leon County District Advisory Council Vice Chair Cheryl Collier-Brown defended their voices.

“Leon County School Board really listens to us and makes decisions based on how the DAC has looked at various events, issues and concerns. They weigh our opinions very heavily,” said Collier-Brown.

Currently, students in the private school system will not have to switch schools. Parents who send their children to private schools through the voucher program can continue to send those students to the schools that they attend and do not have to seek alternative institutions.