Florida Judge Dismisses Attack on New Program for Special Needs Students

Program gives special needs students more options in schooling to meet their unique needs


Contact: Starlee Coleman, (602) 758-9162

Tallahassee, Fla.—Today Leon County Judge Charles A. Francis dismissed for a second time a lawsuit challenging an array of education reforms, including Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts and an expansion to Florida’s scholarship tax credit program.


Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts allow special needs students to use a portion of their state education funding on a variety of educational programs and services, including tutoring, distance learning, private school tuition, and educational therapies. This is the first school year the program has been in place, and more than 1,200 special needs students are using the program now.


The Florida Education Association filed the lawsuit, claiming the law creating the accounts violates Florida’s “single-subject rule” because it included several education reforms in a single legislative bill. Judge Francis ruled that the plaintiffs had not suffered an injury and therefore could not bring a lawsuit against the program.


The Goldwater Institute joined the State in defending the program, representing families who are using Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts.


“The scholarship accounts allow families to customize education for their children’s unique needs,” said Clint Bolick, vice president of litigation at the Goldwater Institute. “We hope this special-interest group will give these kids a break and stop trying to take opportunities away from them.”


Many of the students using the program have severe special needs, including Brandon Berman. Brandon has autism and suffers from congenital muscular dystrophy and spastic paraplegia. Because of these physical challenges, Brandon is unable to attend school. Even so, by law the public school system is required to provide Brandon with an appropriate education. But his local school district is only able to offer four hours of instruction a week through homebound services.


“Four hours a week of school won’t prepare any child for success,” said Bolick. “Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts give parents with severely challenged children the chance to ensure they are prepared for life.”


To read more about this lawsuit, Fassee v. Scott, click here.