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January 5, 2006

Jennifer Fennell or
Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Statement From State Board of Education Chairman Phil Handy Regarding the Florida Supreme Court Decision on the Opportunity Scholarship Program

ORLANDO – "This is a sad day and I am profoundly disappointed in the Florida Supreme Court's decision to strip hundreds of Florida students and parents of choice and access to the education course best for them. Under Governor Jeb Bush's leadership and reform efforts, the Opportunity Scholarship Program has provided students previously mandated to attend a low-performing school with a chance for improved academic success in another public or private school. These are students who would not otherwise have had this opportunity because there were no affordable options available to their parents.

Calls have been pouring into the Department of Education from concerned parents who are currently benefiting from the Opportunity Scholarship Program and others like it. I sympathize with them and appreciate the Supreme Court's decision to not disrupt the education of students currently participating in the Opportunity Scholarship Program by applying the court opinion to the next school year. All Opportunity Scholarship students will be allowed to keep the scholarship and stay in their private school through the end of this school year. The Department of Education will be contacting participating parents to share this information. In addition, the Department is available to answer parents' questions by contacting the School Choice office's toll-free phone number at 1-800-447-1636.

Preserving education choice for students will enable Florida to continue making strides in school accountability and achievement. We must and will consider all options in the Legislature and amending the constitution to ensure the principles of access and choice for Florida's parents and students."