Holland & Knight Successfully Defends Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program
Tallahassee, Fla. (January 18, 2017) – Holland & Knight attorneys successfully assisted several families in multi-year litigation defending the state’s Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTCSP). The state's largest K-12 scholarship program helps pay for tens of thousands of low-income children, most of whom are minorities, to attend private schools.
The lawsuit, Joanne McCall, Senator Geraldine etc. et al. vs Rick Scott, Governor of Florida, etc. et al., was brought by the Florida Education Association, the state's teachers union, and other advocacy groups, which argued that the tax-credit program was unconstitutional under the Florida Constitution. The appellants alleged that the program unlawfully diverts taxpayer money from public schools. However, the program is funded by corporate donations provided to scholarship-funding organizations (SFOs) in exchange for tax credits. SFOs, in turn, make scholarships available to low-income students.
The First District Court ruled that the appellants lacked standing to challenge the FTCSP because they failed to show they suffered any special injury and failed to establish taxpayer standing. The petitioners argued that the Florida Supreme Court had jurisdiction to review the ruling, but the justices declined to hear the case in a 4-1 decision, leaving the FTCSP in full operation.