The battle over Amendment 8 — the Religious Freedom Amendment — is being fought on several fronts: civil rights, the maintenance of vital social services and, recently, public education.
The very prospect of allowing religious organizations to receive public funds goaded the Broward County school board to issue a barely-legal public warning last week.
The board said opening the treasury to the faith-based could not possibly end well for public schools.
It said any money awarded to “sectarian” schools would be money siphoned away from public and charter schools.
“The amendment could be very injurious,” board member Maureen Dinnen told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Familiar argument? It should be.
It’s the one raised against former Gov. Jeb Bush’s “Opportunity Scholarship” program. It would have allowed parents to pay tuition at private schools — including religious private schools — with publicly-funded vouchers.
The Florida Supreme Court struck the program down as unconstitutional in 2006.
Under legislative rules, public school boards are generally not allowed to take public positions on public issues.
Instead, the Broward board passed a resolution that “explains” Amendment 8 and its possible results.
David Barkey, an Anti-Defamation League lawyer specializing in religious freedom, thinks Amendment 8 is an attempt to revive school vouchers.
Though that is the least of his worries.
“It opens the floodgates to funding houses of worship without safeguards against proselytizing or religious discrimination against employees,” Barkey said.
Floridians will vote on the measure on Nov. 8.
What do you think?
Is Amendment 8 an attempt to revive publicly-funded school vouchers for private and religious schools?