Parents, charter schools hope to intervene in Florida HB 7069 lawsuit

Four charter schools and three charter parents from Southwest and Central Florida want to help defend last year’s wide-ranging education law.

Fourteen school districts have sued to strike six key parts of HB 7069 from the books. The parents and schools want to support five of them in Leon County court.

The potential intervenors want to help the state defend provisions that would:

  • Require local school districts to share property tax revenue with charter schools. This part of the law will be revised thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Rick Scott.
  • Shift control over most federal Title I funding from districts to individual schools, which benefits charters, and will also be revised under the new HB 7055.
  • Require districts to use a statewide standard charter school contract as the starting point for negotiations with charters they oversee.
  • Overhaul the state’s system for turning around low-performing public schools.
  • Allow charter school networks to form their own local education agencies.

Beth Schmude is a parent of five children who attended schools run by the Orange County district, according to an affidavit filed with the court.

One of her daughters, Meagan, has cerebral palsy. She attends a UCP charter school, which was one of the first networks to apply to form a local education agency after the law changed. That gave the charter school system more control over federal education funding, including funding for children with special needs.

In her affidavit, Schmude states:

When Orange County retained this discretion, it was a regular occurrence for my husband and I to have necessary services for Maegan be denied. We were told on numerous occasions the monies were needed elsewhere in Orange County and Maegan would get nothing added.

Thirteen school districts initially filed the lawsuit last fall. A 14th, Collier County, intervened to support two counts of their lawsuit. Judge John Cooper has scheduled an April 4 hearing.

Shawn Arnold, a lawyer for the schools and parents, wrote in a court filing that the school districts bringing the lawsuit have indicated they might object to new intervenors at this stage of the case.

The Prospective Intervenors believe that the interests of charter schools across the state are not adequately represented in this case, as there are no charter schools or charter school parents currently named as defendants. The outcome of this case will directly impact charter schools and charter school students across the State of Florida.

The three parents all indicate they have sent their children to district and charter schools alike at various points in their educational careers.

Jenny Cartwright is the mother of two children at Marco Island Academy, a Collier County charter school, and two children at an elementary school run by the district. Before HB 7069 passed, she said, her property taxes for school construction supported some of her children’s schools, but not others.

Under an even newer law, the governor approved Sunday, the new funding scheme will soon change again. But the goal would be the same: Provide similar funding to all public school students — including those in charter schools.

“Marco Island Academy is simply a wonderful school that deserves to be treated equitably,” she says in her affidavit.

A parent and school have already intervened in a separate case dealing with the same law, which is proceeding on a similar timeline.

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