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Challenge to Florida School Choice Law Hits Setback

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A challenge to a Florida school choice law, backed by its statewide teachers' union, experienced a setback today. A county circuit judge dismissed the case because the plaintiffs could not prove they were harmed by the law, according to the Florida Teachers Association. In addition to the FEA, plaintiffs include a teacher, a couple of religious leaders and several organizations, such as the League of Women Voters.

Even though the Leon County Circuit Judge dismissed the case on standing after a brief 20 minute hearing, the judge gave the plaintiffs 15 days to tweak their arguments and try again. The judge did not comment on the merits of the case. 

The plaintiffs' argument against the state is a procedural one: they claim a new law expanding the Florida's school choice program is unconstitutional because of the way it was composed and passed last spring. The law raised the income cap for families to qualify for special scholarships funded by incentivizing donations through tax breaks, and it also created a separate scholarship program for students with disabilities.

The FEA said in an email it is deciding whether it will continue to pursue this lawsuit.

However, there is another lawsuit, also supported by the FEA, challenging the outright constitutionality of the school choice law's tax-credit scholarship program. These programs allow businesses or individuals to claim tax credits for donations made to state-approved scholarship organizations that then give money to eligible students to use toward tuition at private schools, even those affiliated with a religion.

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