Debate over lawsuit about student grants

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Posted: Friday, August 29, 2014 4:06 pm

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The statewide teachers association is among the groups suing the state over a grant program funded by corporate dollars. The plaintiffs say it's unconstitutional to give tax breaks when the scholarships are going to private and religious schools.

Sixty thousand Florida students receive grant money upwards of $5,000, including more than 800 in Sarasota and Manatee Counties combined--including Grace Weichert.

The 12-year old attends Tabernacle Christian School in Sarasota.

Her mother says Grace does better in a smaller setting. But Grace may have to transfer if a state grant program is stopped.

"It would be hard to keep her in private school if I didn't have this scholarship available

Cheryl is talking about a privately funded program where corporations get tax breaks for their donations. But the President of the Sarasota Consolidated Teachers Association doesn't like it.

"They get a tax break and then the tax money that doesn't come in, doesn't go to the schools," said Pat Gardner.

Though SCTA isn't involved directly in the lawsuit, they support it.

"I think we're 42nd in the nation in student funding, everytime they divert something to something else you're just taking it away from the public school system," Gardner said.

One of the top ranking members of Florida Senate supports the fund, and says removing it would hurt a lot of families.

"It's going to impact 60 thousand children. These are children from low-income homes who have opportunities they otherwise wouldn't have had but for this tax scholarship program," said State Senator Bill Galvano.

The Bradenton Republican says these aren't tax dollars or even vouchers-- they're private donations.

"In other words, these are tax credits, corporations are funding this program and getting a tax credit in return," he explained.

But the union says the taxes they're not having to pay is money that should be going to education funding.

"ou're taken money out of the pot that goes to the public school system," Gardner said.

Meanwhile, Cheryl Weichert hopes her daugthter can stay in the school from which she attended a few years earlier.

"With this scholarship, it has made it possible for her to attend there," Weichert said.

No word if or when this lawsuit will progress.

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