Florida Judge Allows Expansion of School Choice

Matt Powers
Matt Powers · August 9, 2002

Washington, D.C. – Delivering a blow to defenders of the educational status quo in Florida, a state judge in Tallahassee today denied their efforts to block the expansion of a statewide school choice program while litigation over the program continues.

On Monday, Circuit Court Judge Kevin Davey ruled that Florida’s Opportunity Scholarship program—the nation’s first statewide school choice effort—violates a provision of the state constitution and ordered the program to cease. The ruling threw hundreds of families across Florida into limbo mere days before the start of the school year, with parents unsure whether their decisions to transfer their children from failing public schools to private schools would be honored.

“Judge Davey did the right thing by protecting the choices of families who have opted out of demonstrably failing schools,” said Clark Neily, senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that represents Pensacola families participating in Florida’s Opportunity Scholarship program. “The time, money and hope they have invested in the new schools they have chosen for their children will not go to waste as the legal battle continues.”

Today’s ruling was in response to an effort by anti-choice forces to override a stay granted automatically by law when the State of Florida and the Institute for Justice indicated that they would appeal Monday’s decision.

“Families in Florida won big today,” said Neily. “Parents are free to choose, and we are confident that we will win that right for Florida parents permanently as the case moves forward on appeal.”