August 9 2002

NSBA Hails Court Ruling That Vouchers are Unconstitutional;

State Constitutions Remain Likely Impediment to Voucher Spread

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Aug. 5 — Today’s ruling by a Florida Circuit Court that the state’s voucher program violates the state constitution is a clear reminder of the countless problems that continue to plague vouchers, according to the National School Boards Association.

“Not only do vouchers fail in the court of public opinion for numerous practical reasons, but this decision proves that vouchers continue to fail the constitutional test at the state level,” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA Executive Director. “The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Cleveland program did not address state-level constitutional problems, which clearly remain an impediment.”

Because Florida’s voucher program, like others, is enacted at the state level, state constitutionality remains a crucial element. “It’s at the state level where the rubber meets the road. State constitutions can be more restrictive than the U.S. Constitution. If vouchers violate state constitutions then the federal constitutional question becomes a moot point,” Bryant said.

The strongly worded opinion reminds voucher advocates that the Florida Constitution’s ban on direct or indirect state aid to religious institutions leaves “scant room for interpretation or parsing.”

Legal issues notwithstanding, vouchers for a few students remain a bad alternative to improving public schools for all students. Florida’s program, like all voucher programs, ignores the needs of the 90 percent of students who attend our public schools, and drain away critical dollars.

“We urge lawmakers nationwide to leave behind this unproven and unpopular idea and place their attention and our public resources where it belongs — on improving public schools for all students,” Bryant said.

The National School Boards Association is a national federation of state and territorial school boards associations that represent more than 95,000 school board members who govern the nation’s public schools. The organization’s mission is to foster excellence and equity in public elementary and secondary education throughout the United States through local school board leadership.

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