Search results for: "vouchers unconstitutional"

Readers of this blog got the scoop a few days ago in the comment section, as reported by Christine Langhoff. But she did not have the English translation.

Here it is in Politico:

NO GO FOR PRIVATELY RUN CHARTERS, VOUCHERS IN PUERTO RICO: Key elements of the Puerto Rican government’s push to reform education through school choice suffered a blow in court over the weekend — one that leaders say they plan to appeal.

— Tribunal de Primera Instancia Judge Iris Cancio González ruled that privately run charter schools and publicly funded vouchers used in private schools run afoul of the Puerto Rican constitution, which says public funds should only sustain government-run schools. Cancio González wrote that even when regulated, charter schools more closely resemble “a private education system funded by the government, than the public schools we know today.”

— “Their framework creates a financing system that supports private institutions, which the government simply licenses with limited supervision,” Cancio González wrote. She added that the private donations charter schools are allowed to receive could influence their objectives and practice, and agreed with teachers union arguments that charter schools could “dilute” the funding that goes to traditional public schools.

— The ruling makes an exception for charter schools run by local governments and public universities.

— The challenge was brought by Puerto Rico’s largest teachers union in a lawsuit filed in April. The union has for months fought the reform plan pushed by Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, arguing that charter schools and vouchers are a threat to the island’s public schools. “We’ve always said, both charters and vouchers are unconstitutional,” Aida Díaz, president of the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, said in a statement . “Justice has been served for our children and their right to a public education. We continue to fight for them and for our teachers.”

— Ramón Rosario Cortés, Puerto Rico’s secretary of public affairs and public policy, said in a statement that “great changes usually attract resistance” and that the government plans to appeal the ruling.

A North Carolina judge ruled voucher legislation unconstitutional because it gives money intended for public schools to private and religious schools. He ordered an immediate halt to the program.

Yvonne Brannan of PublicSchools First NC sent the following response, which included a video of Judge Robert Hobgood reading his decision:

“PLEASE watch this– you will better understand why this is so critical!! Hobgood is brilliant — he clearly points out how children will be denied the promise and privilege of public education if in a private setting where they have no constitutional rights!!!! EVERYONE must get this!! Rs and Ds…please understand the common good of public education for us all must be protected!!!! THIS IS A WIN FOR all children – regardless of race, income, gender, ZIP CODE!!!

“Our forefathers gave us this gift!!! THANKS TO the Great leaders of the past and thanks to fair courts!!

PLEASE CELEBRATE by joining me on Sat at 3:30 pm at the Bicentennial Mall for Moral Week of Action EDUCATION DAY!!

“I CANNOT STOP WATCHING THIS!
http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/video/13911824/”

The Louisiana State Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to fund vouchers using money dedicated to public schools. The court split 6-1. The decision removes funding not only for vouchers but for “course choice,” which was supposed to fund courses offered by entrepreneurs–many of them online– outside the public schools.

Great news!

The Montana Supreme Court declared a law unconstitutional that was intended to offer tuition tax credits (aka vouchers) for private schools.

See here and here

“The justices ruled 5-2 that the program giving tax credits of up to $150 for donations to organizations that give scholarships to private-school students amounts to indirect aid to schools controlled by churches. There is a ban in the Montana Constitution on any direct or indirect state aid to such schools, regardless of how large or small the amount is, the opinion by Justice Laurie McKinnon said.

“The Legislature’s enactment of the Tax Credit Program is facially unconstitutional and violates Montana’s constitutional guarantees to all Montanans that their government will not use state funds to aid religious schools,” McKinnon wrote.”

Read more here: https://www.thestate.com/news/business/national-business/article223011635.html#storylink=cpy

Also, in another Montana newspaper:

“Montana’s high court on Wednesday struck down the state’s tax credit for school scholarships because it primarily benefited religious schools, running afoul of Montana’s Constitution.

“The state program allowed donors who contributed to scholarship funds for students to reduce their state taxes by $1 for every $1 they gave to the fund.

“The Montana Department of Revenue had excluded religious programs from participating in the tax credit program because it allowed religious schools to benefit from public dollars.

“But parents of students at a religious private school in Flathead County had challenged the department’s decision, arguing the ban was discriminatory.

“In Wednesday’s opinion, Justice Laurie McKinnon said the program, enacted by the 2015 Legislature, was a violation of the Montana Constitution’s ban on aid to religious schools.

“The court’s majority said it doesn’t matter that the money benefiting religious schools does not come directly from state coffers because the constitutional article at hand prohibits indirect payments, in this case dollar-for-dollar tax breaks.

“Here, the taxpayer ‘donates’ nothing, because for every dollar the taxpayer diverts to the (school), the taxpayer receives one dollar in consideration from the State in the form of a lower tax bill,” the opinion states.”

Ninety percent of the private schools that signed up for the program were religious.

The radical right and their allies claim they are strict constructionists of the Constitution. They don’t feel the same way about State Constitutions. Even when the State Constitution explicitly says that public money is to be used only for public schools, the far-right celebrates when the Legislature passes a voucher program that violates the State Constitution.

This is the case in Nevada, where the Constitution is very clear about where public money should go: to public schools only. Yet Nevada passed the most sweeping voucher legislation in the nation, and the allegedly strict constructionists have thrown their principles to the wind. The fact is that they care more about free markets than about the State Constitution.

Here is the complaint that was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs challenging Nevada’s sweeping voucher law.

“EducateNevadaNow” is the organization that is leading the charge against vouchers. Here is its question-and-answer sheet about the lawsuit:


On September 9, 2015, a group of parents whose children attend Nevada public schools filed a lawsuit challenging the State’s new voucher law. The lawsuit, Lopez v. Schwartz, has generated media attention and interest from parents, educators and taxpayers.

Today’s frequently asked questions focus on what the parents hope to achieve and next steps in the process.

Q: Are the parents suing for money damages?

A: No. The parents are only suing to stop the voucher program and keep it from taking away funding from the education of their children in the public schools. They are not asking for any money. Additionally, the attorneys representing the parents are providing their legal services for free or “pro bono.”

FACT: The Nevada Constitution states that the funding provided for public schools can only be used to operate those schools and not for any other purposes.

Q: What are the next steps in the parents’ lawsuit?

A: The case has been filed before Judge James Wilson in Carson City, Nevada. The parents will be asking Judge Wilson to declare the voucher law unconstitutional and to block the State Treasurer from implementing the voucher law.

A few days ago, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the voucher plan adopted by the school board in Douglas County was unconstitutional. It was a split decision. It is puzzling that it was a split decision, because the Colorado state constitution explicitly prohibits any public funding of religious institutions.
Text of Section 7:
Aid to Private Schools, Churches, Sectarian Purpose, Forbidden.

 

Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever; nor shall any grant or donation of land, money or other personal property, ever be made by the state, or any such public corporation to any church, or for any sectarian purpose.

 

s Hess at the American Enterprise Institute writes in the National Review that the U.S. Supreme Court might well decide to throw out this part of the state constitution because it was written in the late 1870s as a Protestant ban on funding Catholic schools. Such amendments, found in 2/3 of the states’ constitutions, are known as Blaine amendments for James G. Blaine of New York, who led the movement to keep public money out of religious schools.

Representative Rick Glazier explains the court decision today that invalidated the General Assembly’s voucher plan. The State Constitution clearly says that public funds are for public schools.

 

Representative Glazier writes:

 

The lawyers who put together this case for the plaintiffs, including Burton Craige and his firm, lawyers for the NC Justice Center, Eddie Speas, and former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, among others, did a great job in preparing, briefing and arguing the case before the Superior Court. They made clear what many of us, including a number of House Democrats, had argued on the House floor last year against this bill and provision–that it patently violates the NC Constitution. Public funds for vouchers is, on its face, inconsistent with our constitutional mandate that public money may only be spent on a uniform system of PUBLIC schools. Not only is this [voucher program] public money to fund private schools, but even at that— a nonuniform system of them since the voucher provisions contain no accountability for the funds or schools, no non-discrimination protections, no teacher licensing requirements, no curriculum mandates, no supervision of the use of the funds, no EC requirements and the list goes on. And, no shell game movement of funds by the legislative majority or Governor makes it any less illegal under NC law. Shy of a constitutional amendment approving vouchers, which would never pass in this state, our state constitution forecloses private vouchers funded by public money and the Judge simply recognized what our legislature refuses to understand–no matter your ideology, and policy beliefs, there are some actions the Constitution forbids and using public money to fund private school choices is one of them. Maybe now we can really get back to our job as state legislators and look to truly assist public schools, public school educators, and the students of this state. Vouchers are not reform; they are an abdication of public education. If we want to assist pubic schools, lets start by professionally compensating teachers and educators, repealing the elimination of masters pay, adding time and resources for top notch and targeted professional development, recognizing the role of poverty in educational disadvantages that need time, attention and resources to overcome, restoring a career status system for teachers that rewards good teaching over time. expanding the richness of curriculum in all public schools, ensuring the involvement of the business community in the commitment to and improvement of public schools, and by our words reminding the public daily of the overriding importance of outstanding public schools and public school educators to our state’s economic success. It has been a good day, for a change, in North Carolina! Rick Glazier

Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas called a special session of the legislature to throw out the law he signed that forbade mask mandates. The legislature refused to do it. A judge acted and issued a preliminary injunction against the ban.

Florida offered vouchers to students forced to wear a mask. Parents sued the state for banning masks in public schools.

From the Washington Post:

In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) had signed the ban against mask mandates in April but later supported rolling it back for schools. He argued that allowing individual school districts to make this decision was a conservative approach that boosted local control.

Hutchinson called the legislature back for a special session to reconsider the law, but lawmakers declined to make changes. The governor told reporters Friday that he was disappointed in the legislature and criticized some who he described as having a “casual if not cavalier attitude toward this public health emergency and toward this remedy that I suggested to them.”

Hutchinson’s comments came after a judge temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the law. The governor said the judge had properly ruled that the law “is unconstitutional and an overreach of authority.”

Friday’s order, issued by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox, ruled against the state on several grounds. The judge ruled that such intrusions into another branch of government’s actions amounted to an unconstitutional breach on the separation of powers. He also noted that while public schools were barred from mandating masks, private schools were not.

Tom Mars, attorney for two mothers who challenged the ban, noted that under the law, the court itself was prohibited from ordering those at the hearing to don masks — something that Fox himself had in fact ordered.

Back in Florida, opponents to DeSantis’s order have pointed to skyrocketing coronavirus cases in the state in recent weeks. Florida reported 22,783 new cases Thursday, the highest single-day count since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Several districts have threatened to defy the order. Alachua County, where the University of Florida is located, is mandating masks for the first two weeks of school amid a rise in coronavirus cases. Two school custodians in the district had recently died of covid-19.

Broward County had imposed a mask mandate but put it on pause after DeSantis threatened to withhold state funding from districts that required masks. Now it has reversed itself again. Masks must be worn by everyone in Broward public schools, the school board decided this week.

DeSantis faced another challenge to his order Friday, as the parents of 15 children with disabilities who attend Florida public schools filed suit, saying his executive order barring mask mandates interfered with their rights under federal disability rights laws. The suit says the children are at severe health risk if they get covid-19 and want to be protected in schools every possible way, including with everyone wearing masks.

Under Friday’s action by the state board, children in districts with mandates could qualify for vouchers to attend private schools, though it was not clear how much money would be dedicated to the program or how many students might benefit.

The Florida state school board did not respond to a woman who spoke in the public comments section of the meeting to ask whether the vouchers would be available for students who want mask mandates and attend districts that do not require them.

The program, called the Hope Scholarship, normally is available to students who have been harassed or bullied in their public schools. Under the emergency order, the vouchers are available “when a school district’s COVID-19 health protocols, including masking, pose a health or educational danger to their child.”

Molly Kelly, a former Democratic legislator in New Hampshire, explains what is wrong with the Republicans’ voucher plan. In New Hampshire, as in Florida, Indiana, and other states, the state constitution explicitly prohibits spending public money on religious education. But apparently Republicans believe that the state constitution is just a piece of paper, whose actual textual language is meaningless.

Kelly writes:

Public education is a core tenet of our democracy. That’s why I believe it’s wrong to take money from public schools to pay for vouchers to private or religious schools. Period. But Republicans are prioritizing this dangerous idea with Senate Bill 130, which will only leave more children behind, raise our property taxes, and undermine the quality of a strong public education system.

The so-called “Education Freedom Accounts” legislation being considered by Republican legislators in Concord could not be a bigger misnomer, and the people of New Hampshire, including myself, are not so easily fooled. We know this voucher scheme isn’t about education freedom, just like so-called right-to-work legislation is not about workers’ rights. It’s a way of helping those who have resources and taking from those who don’t, under the title of a scholarship organization.

In our state, we contribute $3,708 in adequacy funding for each student to receive a quality public education. We know that amount must increase. But under the GOP voucher scheme, this funding plus an additional differentiated aid of $895 per student, a total of $4,603 for each “scholarship recipient,” would be taken from public schools and given to private and religious schools — weakening our public schools in the process — with no transparency or accountability for how those tax dollars are spent.

According to the N.H. Private School Review, “the average private school tuition in New Hampshire is approximately $19,393 per year.” (Private elementary schools average $8,511 per year and private high schools average $28,231 per year).

Obviously, a $4,603 voucher is merely a drop in the bucket to pay for education outside of the public system. Who pays for the difference? Parents who can afford it. If parents have resources to send their child to a private or religious school, the state should not take from taxpayers to subsidize that education while hurting everyone else.

Not only does the voucher scheme take from those who need it, but the program is unconstitutional. Under our state constitution, taxpayers’ education dollars are not permitted to be spent at religious schools.

“But no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination,” says the NH State Constitution Bill of Rights, Part 1, Article 6 and “no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination,” according to Part 2, Article 83.

Further, in announcing his recent budget proposal, the governor said everyone would pay less in taxes. If the governor supports this bill, he will be taking funding from public schools and asking Granite Staters to pay more in property taxes to make up the funding loss. On top of that, a diminished public school system will drive down property values. Most importantly, though, is that if this bill is signed into law, it would undermine the education system that our children need to receive a quality education and thrive.

Finally, if parents believe their child isn’t thriving in a public school, then we need to do something about that. Let’s make classrooms smaller, decrease the ratio of students to teachers, support our teachers, commit to quality innovative curriculum and invest in better equipment and technology. The last thing we should do is cut back or give up.

We cannot turn our back on the imperative to invest in public education and provide an equal opportunity for all of our students, not just for a few. The public good must remain at the forefront. We need to strengthen our public schools, not take from them. I would argue that is true education freedom.

This is an excellent and comprehensive explanation of why Governor Bill Lee’s voucher plan has been rejected by two levels of the state judiciary. Lee is closely tied to Betsy DeVos, and he really wants vouchers but they are stalled. The legislature decided to put them only in Memphis and Nashville, against the will of the local governments. It seems there are some constitutional principles that matter more than the Governor’s wishes.

We hold that the ESA Act is local in effect and applicable to Davidson and Shelby counties in their governmental capacity,” the court wrote in its opinion.

As a result, the court found that the Legislature violated the Constitution by not allowing required referendums or votes of the county commissions when it approved the ESA program in 2019.

The court also found Metro Nashville and Shelby County had standing to file the lawsuit because county commissions are charged with funding local school systems.

The Legislature approved $25 million in this year’s budget for the program even though the governor decided to put it on hold after the Chancery Court found ESAs unconstitutional.

State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Memphis Democrat, said the Legislature needs to refund taxpayers for the voucher program and the Achievement School District, which has cost about $1 billion to run mostly charter schools in Memphis.

The state is likely to take the case to the Tennessee Supreme Court, but Parkinson said it is time to stop “wasting” money on the program.

The Attorney General’s Office said it is reviewing the ruling and consulting with the governor on its next steps.

“I think they should put this one to rest, go ahead and bury it and then bury the ASD right beside it and put up on the headstone: ‘We tried,’” Parkinson said.

The attorney for Nashville said the program not only violated home rule but would cost the district $111 million by year five.

Remember when Republicans supported local control?