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Law School Case Brief

Bush v. Holmes - 919 So. 2d 392 (Fla. 2006)

Rule:

Fla. Const. art. IX, § 1(a) contains three critical components with regard to public education. The provision: (1) declares that the "education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida," (2) sets forth an education mandate that provides that it is a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, and (3) sets forth how the state is to carry out this education mandate, specifically, that adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools.

Facts:

Plaintiffs, concerned citizens, filed complaints in the trial court challenging the constitutionality of a program, the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which permitted Florida to pay a student's tuition at a private school to allow the student to attend that school in a case where the student was attending a public school that was failing to meet certain minimum state standards. The OSP was codified at Fla. Stat. § 1002.38 (2005), and plaintiffs challenged it on various constitutional grounds, including Fla. Const. art. IX, § 1(a), which governed the provision of public education to students in Florida. The trial court entered final summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs and declared the OSP to be unconstitutional. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment and agreed that the OSP was unconstitutional. Defendants, Florida state Governor, John Ellis "Jeb" Bush, and other state officials, sought further appellate review.

Issue:

Was the OSP, which permitted Florida to pay a student's tuition at a private school to allow the student to attend that school in a case where the student was attending a public school that was failing to meet certain minimum state standards, constitutional?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The state supreme court found that Fla. Const. art. IX, § 1(a) mandated the provision of education through a free, uniform public school system and that the OSP's diversion of public money to the private school system that did not have to meet uniform educational standards violated that constitutional provision.

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