The purpose of Our Conscience weblog is to facilitate a greater discussion and understanding of church and state separation in our community and in others. Underlying this is the value that each individual should be allowed to follow the dictates of his or her own conscience without influence, coercion, or direction from the State when it comes to matters of religion.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Orlando Sentinel: Jeb Bush scrambles to save vouchers

TALLAHASSEE -- In his eighth and final year as the state's chief executive, Jeb Bush is back where he began -- trying to cement his claim to being Florida's "education governor."

When the state Supreme Court earlier this month struck down his private-school voucher program, it left Bush and Republican leaders scrambling not only to rescue the program but to preserve the governor's legacy.

After a series of closed-door huddles during the past week involving lawmakers and, separately, the governor and his advisers, what's emerging as a likely solution is a plan to ask Florida voters in November to change the state constitution and allow taxpayer dollars to flow to private schools.

But even supporters acknowledge that approach is risky.

Political polls have shown lukewarm support for vouchers. The proposed amendment likely would drive Democrats -- the idea's fiercest opponents -- to the polls during an election year with an open governor's race and U.S. Senate contest at stake.


The voluntary character of the private choice to prefer a parochial education over an education in the public school system seems to me quite irrelevant to the question whether the government’s choice to pay for religious indoctrination is constitutionally permissible. Justice Stevens

I do not believe that the “parental choice” aspect of the voucher program sufficiently offsets the concerns I have mentioned. Parental choice cannot help the taxpayer who does not want to finance the religious education of children. It will not always help the parent who may see little real choice between inadequate nonsectarian public education and adequate education at a school whose religious teachings are contrary to his own. It will not satisfy religious minorities unable to participate because they are too few in number to support the creation of their own private schools. It will not satisfy groups whose religious beliefs preclude them from participating in a government-sponsored program, and who may well feel ignored as government funds primarily support the education of children in the doctrines of the dominant religions. And it does little to ameliorate the entanglement problems or the related problems of social division that Part II, supra, describes. Consequently, the fact that the parent may choose which school can cash the government’s voucher check does not alleviate the Establishment Clause concerns associated with voucher programs. Justice Breyer

ZELMAN V. SIMMONS-HARRIS (00-1751) 536 U.S. 639 (2002)
234 F.3d 945, reversed.