Judge puts Palm Beach HB 7069 funding lawsuit on hold

A South Florida school district’s bid to recoup facilities funding it shared with charter schools under a 2017 law has to wait for courts to sort out a broader case, a Leon County judge has ruled.

The Palm Beach County School Board was first out of the gate to challenge HB 7069 when it passed last year. Its lawsuit is narrow, targeting only the portion of the law requiring it to share local property tax revenue with charter schools it authorizes.

More than a dozen other districts subsequently backed a broader lawsuit taking aim at multiple parts of the law, including the Schools of Hope program. Earlier this year, a different Leon County judge upheld the law on all counts. Last month, the school districts appealed.

Late last week, Judge James Shelfer ruled the Palm Beach case should be put on hold while the appeal in the other lawsuit gets resolved.

While these lawsuits unfolded, the Legislature passed a new law, HB 7055, that relieves school districts of their obligation to share property tax revenue with charter schools — at least for now. But the Palm Beach district still hopes to “claw back” $9.3 million it shared during the just-finished school year. And it argued that even under the current law, it could still have to share local facilities revenue sometime in the future.

What’s more, the district noted the broader lawsuit over HB 7069 could get resolved without answering the one question in its lawsuit, which deals solely with facilities funding.

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