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Courts

religion

Separated and secular

Three score years ago the U.S. Supreme Court forbade the teaching and symbols of religion in public schools. God is neither to be discussed, pictured nor even sung to at Christmas; maybe at graduations and football games students may express their thanks to God – up to a point. It is proper, of course, for the teachers to relate the truths of Darwin and his theory of natural selection. But, it is improper to invite the student mind to wonder about just how all that material reality came to be in the first place. Could matter create itself; could all...

Amendment 8 and the future of school choice

The Florida Supreme Court may have struck down a proposed education amendment to the state’s constitution, but the issue the measure raised can’t be easily dismissed. In a 4-3 decision, the court last week removed from the November ballot Amendment 8, which would have given the state the authority to establish and operate public schools, bypassing local school districts. The four justices affirmed a lower-court ruling that the amendment’s language was misleading because it “fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect” of the measure. Although Amendment 8, which was placed on the ballot by Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission,...

More money for Florida education? What it needs is more customization

Florida’s constitution requires the state to make adequate provision for a uniform system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high-quality education. Back in 2009, a group called Citizens for Strong Schools filed a lawsuit asserting the state is not fulfilling this mandate, and asking the judiciary to order the state to make the necessary improvements. Both the circuit court and the appeals court ruled against the plaintiffs, but the case is still alive, with oral arguments in front of the Florida Supreme Court scheduled for Nov. 8. Some argue that if we spend enough money our...

Double standards on school choice and religion

“Tax dollars shouldn’t go to pay for religious schools. That’s why we have separation of church and state.” That’s a common complaint from opponents of government-sponsored programs that provide students with the financial means to attend the K-12 private school of their choice – sometimes of the parochial variety. For them, the wall between church and state can’t be high enough. Here’s some news for those critics: Funny, you don’t hear the same criticisms leveled at the G.I. Bill, the wildly successful and popular federal program that, among its benefits, gives military veterans tax dollars to spend on their post-secondary education –...

Judge blocks education ballot proposal

Lloyd Dunkelberger / News Service of Florida TALLAHASSEE --- A Leon County circuit judge Monday knocked a proposed education constitutional amendment off the November ballot, saying the wording failed to inform voters of its impact on the creation of charter schools. The proposed amendment, placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, would impose eight-year term limits on school board members and would require the promotion of “civic literacy” in public schools. But the provision that drew a legal challenge from the League of Women Voters of Florida would have allowed the state to operate and control public schools “not established...

Palm Beach School Board files appeal over charter applications

A School Board in South Florida is headed back to court, again, in its attempt to prevent two new charter schools from opening. The Palm Beach School Board, which has been in litigation on these charter schools since 2015, voted unanimously and without debate on Wednesday to file another appeal to the Fourth District Court of Appeal. This time, it is challenging the Florida Board of Education’s decision this summer to overturn the district’s rejection of South Palm Beach Charter and Renaissance Charter High School applications. The State Board followed the recommendation of the state Charter School Appeal Commission, which reviewed...

Members of ’98 Constitution Revision Commission file briefs supporting state’s position in adequacy lawsuit

A group of appointed members from a 1998 Constitution Revision Commission filed a legal brief Tuesday arguing the state has fully complied with a constitutional mandate, proposed by the commission and approved by voters that year, requiring Florida public schools to be “high quality” and adequately funded. The CRC contingent was among five different groups that filed amicus briefs supporting the state’s position in the highly charged adequacy lawsuit, and its legal argument was notably at odds with that of a separate group of appointment members who weighed in earlier in July. The adequacy suit, first in 2009 by a Gainesville-based...

Clash emerges on education amendment – two decades later

Jim Saunders / News Service of Florida TALLAHASSEE --- One group, describing itself as the “framers” of an education constitutional amendment, was largely appointed by former Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles. Another group was appointed by 1990s-era Republican legislative leaders. But two decades after the groups served together on the 1997-1998 Florida Constitution Revision Commission, they are clashing in the state Supreme Court. The root of the clash is an amendment that the Constitution Revision Commission placed on the 1998 ballot that spelled out a duty for the state to provide a high-quality system of public schools. The Florida Supreme Court is now...