May 2, 2006 1:01PM

Florida Senate Ties its Own Straightjacket

The Florida Senate yesterday killed, by one vote, a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have allowed it to pass school choice legislation. Back in January, the state supreme court fitted the legislature with an education policy straightjacket. It claimed, simply because the state constitution requires the existence of a uniform public school system, that legislators are forbidden to create alternative systems – including, but not necessarily limited to, school choice programs. 

Rather than undoing this bit of judicial overreach, the Senate decided to tie the straightjacket snugly on itself – killing constitutional amendment language that would have allowed it to once again do its job on education policy. 

This leaves Florida’s lawmakers – and more importantly its students – stuck with the “uniform” public school system that has been failing them for decades. The state has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country, according to two independent assessments, and both its mathematics and verbal SAT scores are below the national average. In fact, even Floridian students whose first language is English score 15 points below the national average for such students on the verbal portion of the SAT. 

That’s the system to which the Senate and the judiciary have consigned Sunshine State schoolchildren. 

It’s a sad day for Florida. 

Fourteen other states have public school “uniformity clauses” much like Florida’s so stay tuned to this issue. 

For more on the run-up to this vote, see The American Spectator.