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Voucher Amendment: Crafty or Sneaky?

September 2nd, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

The fate of two constitutional amendments dealing with education will be decided by the state Supreme Court this week. One repeals a century old ban on state money going to religious institutions, the other re-institutes vouchers. As Mike Vasilinda tells us the voucher amendment is cloaked in what opponents are calling misleading language.

If Amendment 9 stays on the ballot, Voters in November will see some feel good language about requiring 65 percent of money given to schools be spent in the classroom. Even opponents realize it sounds good.

“That’s like saying, ‘do you really believe you should stop kicking your dog?’ Well of course you should stop kicking your dog,” Bill Montford with the School Superintendents Association. “I don’t even have a dog, but if I had one, I should not kick him.”

The ballot summary says the amendment also “Revises legal precedent prohibiting public funding of private school alternatives.”

The Supreme Court ruled two years ago that vouchers were unconstitutional. This amendment would change that.

Tying the two measures together has been described as crafty…or worse.

“It is a sneaky way to do it. It’s not telling the truth to the public of Florida,” Wayne Blanton with the Florida School Boards Association said. “Sixty-five percent, most of my districts are already over sixty-five percent. And they attach the vouchers to it without ever mentioning the word vouchers.”

Supporters say linking the two together just made sense since they both deal with public education.

“Hopefully more will be spent on teachers,” Former Tax and Budget Commission member Greg Turberville said. “Secondly, it guarantees other options like charter schools or virtual schools for future years, that they can’t be challenged in a court.”

Opponents are asking the Supreme Court to take the Amendment off the ballot because they say it is misleading.

A second education amendment being heard Wednesday would lift the ban on state money going to religious organizations. Opponents say it could end up requiring the state to fund private religious schools, but supporters say it only gives the state more options.

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