Thursday, March 30, 2006


The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-3 along party lines Wednesday to approve a bill which includes Governor Jeb Bush's proposal which would provide virtually every parent across Florida with a taxpayer-provided voucher to send their children to private or religious schools, but it's future remains questionable.

This is the governor's latest attempt to circumvent the Florida Supreme Court decision earlier this year which ruled the Opportunity Scholarship Programme unconstitutional (Adobe Acrobat Reader required to read the decision). The proposal approved in committee yesterday would also override the constitutional prohibition on the use of public funds for religious education, allowing the Legislature to "enact and publicly fund prekindergarten through college education programs, without regard to the religious nature" of the schools, as well as allow parents who "request alternatives to traditional public education" to receive state money to attend private schools, "as provided by law".

That line casued Senator Dave Aronberg (D - Greenacres) to mention that the proposal as presented would allow taxpayer support for Taliban schools in Florida, as lawmakers could not discriminate between religious faiths seeking to run schools. (FYI: For those who may have forgotten, the Taliban is a Sunni Muslim nationalist movement in Afghanistan, not a religion of it's own...but surely you can understand the good Senator's point, eh?).

According to the report from Joe Follick of the New York Times Florida Newspaper Group's Tallahassee bureau:

While Democrats raked the proposal, Republicans were mute. (Senator Daniel)Webster (R - Orlando, also Judiciary Committee Chairman) was clearly defending it out of a sense of duty. He dubbed the bill's future in the Senate "Mission Impossible" and stuck to his own proposal to change the laws, rather than the constitution, to resurrect the OSP plan.


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