Agudath Israel of America lauds this week’s decision by Florida’s First District Court of Appeal to reject a constitutional challenge to the state’s special needs voucher program.
The McKay Scholarship Program serves more than 30,000 special needs students, including many children who attend Jewish schools. As part of a 2009 challenge to the state’s school funding formula, the plaintiffs claimed that the state’s two scholarship programs were unconstitutional. The claim against the corporate tax credit scholarship program was thrown out last year by the trial court since the plaintiffs lacked standing.
In his decision, Chief Judge Brad Thomas recognized that the McKay Scholarship Program has a positive effect on the public schools and concluded that “it is difficult to perceive how a modestly sized program designed to provide parents of disabled children with more educational opportunities to ensure access to a high quality education could possibly violate the text or spirit of a constitutional requirement of a uniform system of free public schools.”
Rabbi Moshe Matz, executive director of Agudath Israel of Florida, has been an integral part of the coalition advocating for the scholarship since its inception. “We were happy to see,” said Rabbi Matz, “that the court not only declared the program constitutional, but also highlighted its effectiveness. We hope this ruling marks the end of an eight year legal battle over the right of Florida parents to choose the best school for their child.”