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Judge dismisses voucher lawsuit -- again

A judge on Tuesday dismissed one of two lawsuits aimed at Florida's controversial school voucher program.

The suit challenged the 2014 expansion of a program that provides private-school scholarships for low-income children. It also threatened a new program creating scholarships for children with special needs.

A second lawsuit, which is still pending, alleges the voucher program conflicts with the state Constitution.

Both are being driven by the statewide teachers union.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Charles Francis had already dismissed the first challenge, saying the teacher named as the plaintiff did not have legal standing. But the lawsuit was amended to include three parents with children in public schools.

On Tuesday, Francis said the new complaint lacked "a legally sufficient basis to sustain a finding of special injury."

He added: "The Court is of the opinion that further amendments to the complaint will not result in a legally sufficient complaint."

Fedrick Ingram, president of United Teachers of Dade, said the dismissal will only push teachers to work harder for change in Tallahassee when the legislative session starts in March.

"We will do what’s necessary to continue fighting on behalf of the public interest," he said. "It's a slight setback, but we are not deterred."

But supporters of the voucher program hope Tuesday’s ruling foreshadows a victory in the remaining lawsuit.  

"On behalf of the families using Tax Credit Scholarships and PLSA accounts, we are thankful that Chief Judge Francis dismissed the challenge to SB850 – holding the unions had no standing to challenge that bill – especially since this ruling supports the argument that the union also has no standing to challenge the tax credit scholarship program in the [other] case," said Daniel Woodring, an attorney representing scholarship parents.

Download The motion here