Judge Rules Florida Vouchers Can Continue

Published June 1, 2000

The same judge who in March had ruled that Florida’s A+ Plan was unconstitutional in April rejected a request from the teacher unions to close the program until the Court of Appeals rules this summer.

In an April 26 decision hailed as a significant victory by school choice advocates, Leon County Circuit Court Judge L. Ralph Smith Jr. refused to grant the teacher unions’ motion to vacate the automatic stay of his earlier injunction of the program.

Under Florida law, a stay can be vacated only under “compelling circumstances,” which, according to Smith, the unions had not demonstrated. The ruling means that, barring additional court action, the expansion of the A+ Plan can proceed and include as many as 78,000 students in 78 additional failing public schools across the state.

“This decision greatly increases the chances that students all across Florida will be able to escape from failing public schools next fall,” said Clint Bolick, litigation director of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Justice, which is representing parents and children from Pensacola who are using the Opportunity Scholarships to attend private schools.

Whatever the final outcome, Smith made it clear he wants the case resolved quickly.

“I think it would be in the best interest of the state of Florida, the people of Florida, the school districts, the parents, and the students to get this very limited issue resolved by the Florida Supreme Court in an expeditious fashion,” Smith told attorneys at the April 26 hearing.