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It's morning edition from NPR news, ami Martinez in Los Angeles, California. And I'm Leila fauld in Washington, D.C.. Kentucky Supreme Court is considering a case today that will decide whether the state can redirect would be tax dollars to private schools. It's a debate that once again pits advocates of privatizing schools against people worried about the underfunding of public education. Jess Clark of member station W FPL will be in the courtroom today and joins us now on Skype hijack a morning. Hello. So why don't we start with you just telling us more about this case? What's happening in the courtroom today? Sure, well, many people have heard about school vouchers. That's a program in which the state pays for certain families to attend private school. The stated rationale being that lower income families deserve the same access to private school as wealthier families. But school vouchers are actually not legal in Kentucky. The state constitution pretty explicitly forbids using tax dollars on non public schools. So this case is about a program private school advocates have created that is very similar to a voucher program, but different enough, they say that it doesn't violate the constitution. Okay, so before we get into details of what each side is arguing, arguing in the court, give us the context here about what's at stake in this case and why people are so invested. Well, it gets back to a debate that's played out in many states about the value of privatizing K12 education. Vouchers and tax credit scholarship programs are illegal in many other states. Some states even have both Indiana and Louisiana being to in proponents of these programs often refer to themselves as being for, quote, school choice. And they argue that all parents should have the right to opt out of the public school system, just like wealthy families who can pay for private school. On the other side, advocates of public education say a big reason parents even want to opt out is because for decades, lawmakers have underfunded public schools. In Kentucky, for example, if you adjust for inflation, spending per student is still significantly lower than it was in 2008. So opponents are worried that this program will just further drain funds away from students and from public schools. So that's the bird's eye view. Let's get into how this program in Kentucky would work and how advocates say it differs from vouchers. So this program is a tax credit scholarship fund at the risk of putting listeners back to sleep because that sounds pretty dry, but stick with me. Here's how it works. First, people or corporations make a donation to a scholarship fund that is managed by a third party. And then return for the donation, the donor gets a tax credit of up to 97% of their contribution. So essentially, these donors contribute to a scholarship fund in lieu of paying a state taxes. Then low and middle income families can apply to use the scholarship funds on educational expenses, including private school tuition. And advocates of the tax credit program say because the money never actually enters state coffers. The state is not technically funding these private schools and the program is therefore legal. And what's the other side saying? Well, opponents say this program will take even more money out of the public school system and create a system of haves and have nots. They call this program backdoor vouchers. And a lower court judge actually agreed with them saying the mechanism for collecting the funds is irrelevant because the program ultimately amounts to state support for private schools. Advocates of the program appealed that decision and that's why the court is hearing the case today. All right, and you will be in the courtroom that's just Clark with W FPL. Thank you so much for your time and your reporting. Thank you. A jury in Florida is expected to begin deliberations on whether the gunman who killed 17 people at marjory Stoneman Douglas high school gets the death sentence. Nicholas Cruz has pleaded guilty to the murders. Yeah, defense attorneys argued that cruise though should be spared and given life in prison without the possibility of parole instead because of his troubled history and his mental health. NPR's Greg Allen has been following the trial, he joins us now from Miami and some of what you'll hear in his report might be disturbing. Greg, how will the jury decide whether Cruz deserves the death penalty? Well, under Florida law, a jurors can hand down a sentence of death if they find that aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors. And prosecutors detailed several aggravating factors they think that apply here. Prosecutor Mike sat says videos, cruise recorded on his cell phone, social media posts, and even Internet searches showed that he planned this attack on the school months in advance. What she did was to murder children at school and their caretakers. That's what he wanted to do. That's what he planned to do. That's what he wanted to do, and that's what he did. And there are other aggravating factors. The fact that multiple murders were carried out that they were done at a school and that they were done in a way that was especially quote heinous atrocious or cruel, on that point, the jury heard disturbing testimony from survivors about the terror they experienced that day. Jurors also watched surveillance videos showing crews returning to victims he wounded and shooting them again, killing them. Now, as we mentioned, Cruz's guilt has already been established. He pleaded guilty. What's the case, his defense has made for giving him a life sentence? Well, I've spoken to experienced lawyers who say this is one of the most difficult death penalty cases for the defense they've ever seen in Florida. Yesterday, the jury once again viewed a 14 minute surveillance video from the school that recorded the entire attack. It's not been made public very disturbing, but it depicts cruise methodically shooting into classrooms and down hallways. And then reloading his AR-15 style rifle several times with new magazines. Several weeks ago, the jury visited the building at March, we stillman Douglas high school, where the shootings occurred where they saw bloodstains, bullet holes, and other evidence of the attack. Defense lawyer Melissa McNeil has tried to move past the shooting, saying, by pleading guilty to the murders, Cruz is accepting responsibility. She's tried instead to focus on cruise's troubled history that began before he was born when his mother abused drugs and alcohol while she was pregnant with him. But how would that help him avoid the death penalty? Well, McNeil spent a lot of time yesterday in her closing argument, recounting all the problems Cruz had in school and in his interactions with others. She talked about testimony from experts who said, Cruz suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. She said he never received a proper diagnosis or treatment because everyone from his adoptive mother to school officials dropped the ball. And at least one juror opts for life, the death penalty then is off the table. But Neil acknowledged though to jurors that thought would require courage. Your individual moral decision must not be based upon what you think that this community wants. Or what you think anybody else wants. This is your individual moral decision. Many of the family members of those who have died have been outspoken about their desire to seek crews receive the death penalty. Throughout the trial, many of them been in the courtroom, there's been some difficult days, and I'm sure they will be there when the jury finally comes in with the verdict, whenever that is. NPR's Greg Allen in Miami Greg thanks. You're welcome. This is NPR news

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