ORLANDO, Fla. – Camels and costumed children marched down Orange Blossom Trail on Tuesday to protest a lawsuit brought against the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program.
The Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO) organized the event on the eve of Three Kings Day, a Christian holiday that celebrates the three wise men who visited the infant Jesus after his birth.
"Our community celebrates Three Kings Day as much as Christmas itself, with its focus on children and the gifts that the Magi bring," said Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of HCREO. "Today, our coalition of faith leaders demand that the FEA (Florida Education Association ) withdraw its assault on poor and minority children and allow them to keep the gift of education, which they deserve."
In August, the FEA brought a legal challenge against the program, which allows corporations to get a tax credit for donations to organizations that offer scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools.
In court documents, the FEA argued that the program is unconstitutional and hurts the education system by diverting resources from public schools that serve low-income populations.
"Voucher schools are largely unregulated, don't have to follow the state's academic standards, don't have to hire qualified teachers and don't have to prove to the state that they are using public money wisely," said FEA President Joanne McCall. "Because they don't follow the same rules, there's no way to say they're doing a better job. Florida's taxpayers and students would be better served by investing these scarce resources to improve our lowest performing schools and helping all of the students who attend them."
According to HCREO, 80,000 low-income children benefit from Florida's Tax Credit Scholarship program. Nearly 40 percent of the students are Hispanic.
HCREO will hold a rally January 19 at the state Capitol in Tallahassee in another call of support for the program.