The Florida Association of School Administrators announced on Friday it would be withdrawing itself as a party in the controversial lawsuit over school vouchers in Florida, leaving one less group attached to the legal battle threatening to end the states largest voucher program.
FASA originally joined in the Florida Education Associations lawsuit against the program in August 2014.
The decision, it says, was simply about reprioritizing to focus on the priorities at the heart of FASA, the association for administrators, district superintendents, principals, assistant principals, supervisors and those who support the public schools of Florida.
[The board of directors] was looking at our priorities for the association and where were directing our attention, and they felt that the focus really needed to be on teaching and learning and making sure that our administrators statewide are receiving a level of professional development that would impact and support students and teachers in a positive way, said FASA Director of Communications Michele White.
The tax credit scholarship program allows companies to donate to education nonprofits for tax breaks. The nonprofit organizations then give out voucher scholarships to needy students to allow them to attend different schools.
Opponents of the program say its unconstitutional and that it funnels important funding from the states public schools. Each student in the program can receive up to $5,000 in scholarships.
Weve participated thus far but we just need to make sure our priorities are directed on issues directing our administrators, White told Sunshine State News.
Other education groups said FASA made the right decision by choosing to withdraw from the lawsuit.
"FASA's decision to drop the suit is what's right for students, said executive director of the Foundation for Florida's Future, Patricia Levesque. This lawsuit all along has been unfair and misguided. We hope others are inspired to reprioritize and withdraw from the attack on school choices that make success possible for more students."
Although FASA has withdrawn its name from the legal battle, its still on board with ending the tax credit scholarship program, which currently serves close to 70,000 Florida students, most of whom are low-income minorities. But the organizations withdrawal is somewhat of a step back for the FEA, which has said it has no intentions of dropping the suit.
The FEA, however, isnt worried.
This happens sometimes when groups decide they have particular priorities and it doesnt concern us much at all, said FEA spokesperson Mark Pudlow, who told SSN he hasnt heard of any other involved groups intending to withdraw their names from the suit.
The FEA is currently waiting for a judge to make a decision on whether any of the groups involved in the lawsuit have standing to move forward with the lawsuit. If the judge approves FEA involvement, the lawsuit will head to the circuit court.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen