In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a Florida school-voucher program because it violated the state constitution. While that case was still working its way through the courts, the state legislature enacted a second program designed to accomplish the same ends through tax credits. Under this program, Florida awards dollar-for-dollar tax credits for contributions to “Scholarship Funding Organizations.” These “Scholarship Funding Organizations” then award scholarships for students to attend private schools.
In the years since, the legislature has greatly increased the size and scope of the tax-credit program so that it now diverts hundreds of millions of tax dollars to private schools. More than two-thirds of those private schools are religious, and well over three-quarters of the students participating in the program attend religious schools.
In August 2014, in cooperation with attorneys for the National and Florida Education Associations, we filed a challenge to the tax-credit program in Florida state court. Our clients include clergy, parents, educational associations, the Florida League of Women Voters, and the Florida NAACP. We argue that, like the voucher program invalidatedin 2006, the tax-credit program violates provisions of the state constitution pertaining to public education and the funding of religion.
The state, as well as a a group of Florida parents who have intervened to defend the tax credits, moved to dismiss the case in October 2014. We opposed those motions (read our opposition to the state's motion to dismiss and our opposition to the intervenors' motion to dismiss), but the trial court granted the motions to dismiss, holding that our clients lack standing to challenge the tax-credit program.
We appealed that ruling to Florida's First District Court of Appeal. Briefing has now been completed. (Read our opening brief, the state's brief, the intervenors' brief, and our reply brief.)
The court heard oral argument on May 10, 2016.