Getting what you ask for, good and hard
Posted by aogWednesday, 11 January 2006 at 17:45 TrackBack Ping URL

There’s been much uproar about the Florida Supreme Court striking down vouchers in the state. With out a doubt, this is a serious blow to those poor and black (and most especially to those who are both).

Yet, could the FSC have decided the case differently? Obviously people who care about the children would prefer a differnent outcome, but it seems apropos that this is an attack currently being used against USSC nominee Sam Alito, that he decides case based on law instead of (desired) result. While I agree that the FSC decision isn’t so cut and dried as to be unassailable, but the objections I have seen are all about the bad results of the decision, not bad law. Unlike the FSC’s bogus decision in the 2000 US Presidential election, this seems well grounded in explicit state law (as opposed to the other decision which expressly violated state law).

This is a classic example of how “feel-good” law ends up yielding “feel bad” results when idealistic language meets harsh reality. The uniformity requirement is, of course, the essence of socialism and we’ve seen how well that works in the real world. If the people of Florida find this decision unacceptable, it seems to me that they should repeal the requirement in the state constitution that lead to it. To whine that the FSC saving the state from the voters is just that, whining. Conservatives should be using this as a teaching example instead of trying to get the FSC to perform yet another cover up of bad policy.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
pj Saturday, 14 January 2006 at 09:54

AOG - The FSC ruling was a travesty as a matter of law. The Florida Constitution requires a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools.” This establishes an obligation to create a certain kind of public school system, but it doesn’t proscribe the creation of alternative competing systems. As long as the state has provided its “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools,” it ought to be free to do anything else in addition.

In other words, provision of A+B satisfies a mandate for provision of A, and it’s malicious illogic to read a mandate of A as prohibiting A+B.

The irony is that the something else the state was doing was an effort to satisfy the “high quality” piece of the Constitutional requirement by penalizing dysfunctional schools with competition. You won’t see any FSC rulings that attack public schools because they don’t meet the “high quality” requirement.

I do agree that the “uniform” provision was a bad one, but it doesn’t excuse the FSC ruling.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 15 January 2006 at 09:50

I will defer to your judgement on this, as it’s more your field than mine, but I don’t see how a variegated systems of public education satisfies the “uniform” clause. So in your analogy, I don’t see the charter system as providing “A+B”. Also, wouldn’t the Brown vs. Board of Education logic apply here as well (although I think that Brown was bad legal reasoning)?

Still, I think the ultimate problem here is the ridiculous clause in the state constitution. I would be willing to argue that it is impossible to create a system that satisfies all of those properties simultanouesly. The “uniform” part is probably the key failure point, you might be able to get all of the other ones (although terms like “safe” and “efficient” are also problematic, as no human activity is fully either).

pj Sunday, 15 January 2006 at 12:30

Yes, the charter system is “B” and the uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools is “A.” The uniformity criterion applies to the A, not to the A+B in toto.

Brown vs Board of Education relied on an interpretation of the “equal protection of the laws” clause of the federal Constitution. No one would read that to say that every person, regardless of circumstance, has to be given precisely identical treatment by the government; that would make no sense (e.g., they’d have to treat minors the same as adults, felons the same as the unconvicted, and so forth). Rather it has a limited scope. A problem with the last-50-years expansion of its scope is that the choice of scope has become quite arbitrary - so it is a useful clause for liberal activists. However, I don’t think anyone would claim that the equal protection clause wipes out vouchers for education. If so, it would also wipe out our system of higher education funding (for colleges and universities are not “uniform” in their practices).

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 15 January 2006 at 16:16

Ah. I understand your point but I was considering the public school system provided by the state as containing all publicaly funded education which would include the voucher schools as well. Howeve, the trailing qualifier “free public schools” supports your view of the matter.

Allright, you win — the decision was wrong even on the legality.

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