LEGISLATION AND LITIGATION
On August 20, the Florida Supreme Court issued an order for oral arguments in Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education and Celeste Johnson, to be held Nov. 8, at 9 a.m. in Tallahassee. This case was brought by the teachers’ unions against the Florida Department of Education, challenging the adequacy of funding for public schools and the constitutionality of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program and the McKay voucher for children with special needs.
On August 9, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ruled that vouchers and charter schools are constitutional in Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico v. Departamento de Educación. The Court’s decision overturned the adverse ruling of the lower court. It was a 5-3 decision, with one judged recused. The ruling of the court was brief, simply reversing the lower court ruling and dismissing the complaint that was brought by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) teachers’ union—the national and local Puerto Rico chapter—against Puerto Rico’s Department of Education. The Justices explained their positions in four concurring opinions and two dissenting opinions.
On August 22, the AFT filed a Motion to Reconsider, asking the Puerto Rico Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling. That motion is pending.
Notwithstanding the pending Motion to Reconsider, charter schools are opening now, while the voucher program is in the process of being created by the Puerto Rico department of education. It is expected that vouchers will be available next year.
Legislators pre-filed a bill for the 2019 legislative session, SB 1015, which would expand eligibility for the state’s Education Improvement Scholarships to certain at-risk preschool students who have special needs and/or are from low-income families. The bill has been referred to the Virginia Senate Finance Committee.