Florida School Choice - Release: 6-22-1999
Lawyers Representing Opportunity Scholarship Parents Deride ACLU/NAACP Legal Challenge
WEB RELEASE: June 22, 1999
CONTACT: John Kramer (703) 682-9320
Washington, D.C. - The Institute for Justice, which will represent families who are eligible for opportunity scholarships and the Urban League of Greater Miami, assailed the lawsuit filed today challenging parental choice provisions of the A+ education reform program.
"The special-interest groups won't allow reform without a fight," declared Clint Bolick, the Institute for Justice's litigation director. "But the parents whose kids are consigned to failing schools will fight tenaciously to protect their children's future."
One part of the legal challenge filed in Leon County Circuit Court alleges that the program violates the state constitutional guarantee of a high-quality public education. "The plaintiffs have it exactly backwards," Bolick stated. "This program puts meaning for the first time behind the constitutional guarantee of a high-quality education."
Bolick singled out the ACLU for special criticism. "If the ACLU is concerned about harming public schools, the real culprit is in the mirror," he said. The ACLU, for example, has sued the Polk County Public Schools seeking $5.5 million in punitive damages for the voluntary use of polygraphs in disciplinary proceedings.
The Florida ACLU director, Howard Simon, recently promised in a Tallahassee debate that the ACLU would challenge the program only on religious establishment, not educational policy grounds, a promise the ACLU broke in its lawsuit.
Also, Bolick said it was "embarrassing and shameful" for the NAACP to challenge the program. "A huge share of students who will benefit from the program are black children," Bolick said. Moreover, students in predominantly black religious colleges who receive state post-secondary aid could be jeopardized by a ruling against the program on religious establishment grounds.
"This program is about education, not religion," Bolick declared.
The Institute will file papers tomorrow on behalf of several Pensacola families and the Urban League of Greater Miami seeking to intervene as parties to the lawsuit.