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First of Two Lawsuits Involving Florida School Choice Law Dismissed

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A county circuit judge in Florida has dismissed a union-backed challenge to the state's recently expanded tax-credit scholarship program, reports Travis Pillow at the RedefineEd blog.

Legislation passed earlier this year in the Florida statehouse loosened eligibility requirements for the state's tax-credit scholarship program by raising the income cap for families to qualify. Such programs allow people or businesses to get tax credits for donations made to state-approved organizations, which then give money to eligible students to use toward tuition at private schools—including religious ones.

The legislation also created a separate scholarship program for students with disabilities that reimburses parents for money they spend on special services including therapy, tutoring, and private school tuition. (For more on that particular program, check out this in-depth story from The Miami Herald.)

"Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts give parents with severely challenged children the chance to ensure they are prepared for life," Clint Bolick, vice president of litigation at the Goldwater Institute, said in a statement. The Goldwater Institute is an Arizona-based nonprofit conservative public policy advocacy organization. Its legal arm is representing the parents whose children are participating in the program for students with special needs. 

A Florida Education Association member filed the lawsuit in mid-July against Florida Governor Rick Scott, members of his cabinet, and the education commissioner. The lawsuit claimed the law was unconstitutional because of the way the legislation was composed and passed.

A Leon County Circuit judge first dismissed this case on standing in late September but gave the plaintiffs 15 days to tweak their case and try again. It was dismissed again Tuesday for the same reason.

There is another lawsuit, also supported by the FEA, challenging the outright constitutionality of the school choice law's tax-credit scholarship program. There has not yet been a decision in that case.

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