Courts

Judge breaks down decision upholding Florida ‘Schools of Hope’ law

By Jim Saunders News Service of Florida TALLAHASSEE — Rejecting arguments of school boards across the state, a Leon County circuit judge this week formally rejected a challenge to a controversial 2017 law that included a series of moves to boost charter schools. Circuit Judge John Cooper, who had earlier indicated he would turn down the challenge, issued an 18-page ruling Tuesday siding with the Florida Department of Education and the State Board of Education, the defendants in the case. The lawsuit centered on a measure, commonly known as HB 7069, that was a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes,...

Fla. lawyers to high court: Keep ‘legal cloud’ off McKay Scholarship program

Florida's school voucher program for special needs students is constitutional. If the state Supreme Court entertains arguments to the contrary, it will create an unnecessary "legal cloud" for thousands of families. That's the argument lawyers defending the McKay Scholarship program made in court papers filed this week. Late last year, a state court of appeal rejected a lawsuit that took aim at 20 years of Florida education policy and argued the state had systematically underfunded public schools. The plaintiffs in that case want the high court to hear their appeal. The lawsuit also contended McKay Scholarships, vouchers that help the families roughly 30,000 special-needs...

Montana moms get their day in court

Shortly after Montana created its first tax credit scholarship, Mike Kadas, head of the state's Department of Revenue, unilaterally declared that scholarships could not be used at religious private schools. Kadas argued the state's Blaine Amendment, a 19th century relic of Catholic discrimination, barred "direct or indirect" appropriations to religious organizations. School choice moms struck back with a lawsuit claiming religious discrimination. “The rule also violates both the state and federal Constitutions because it allows scholarship recipients to attend any private school except religious ones,” Erica Smith, an attorney with the institute, said in a press release at the time. “That’s...

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...

Former Fla. Supreme Court Justice: Time to nix Blaine Amendment

Florida's prohibition on public aid to religious institutions grew out of anti-Catholic bigotry. It's also outdated, a former state Supreme Court justice told a panel working revisions to the state's governing document. And it likely violates the U.S. Constitution. Former Chief Justice Raoul Cantero, now a lawyer in private practice, urged the education committee of the Constitution Revision Commission to support a proposal that would erase Florida's Blaine Amendment. The "no-aid" provision has come up in lawsuits against voucher programs that fund scholarships to religious schools. It's been used to challenge groups providing substance abuse counseling in state prisons. But a U.S....

Fla. Supreme Court declines HB 7069 lawsuit – at least for now

A divided state Supreme Court declined to immediately decide what could be the most far-reaching legal challenge facing a major Florida education law. Justices sent the petition, filed last month by nine school boards, to the Leon County Circuit Court. The 4-3 ruling means the case would have to work its way through lower courts. The school boards asked the Supreme Court to block HB 7069 in its entirety. Among other things, they argued it violated a constitutional rule that limits laws to a single subject. The law created a new Schools of Hope program. It also funded teacher bonuses, overhauled Florida's charter...

Judge declines to dismiss Palm Beach lawsuit challenging HB 7069

News Service of Florida A circuit judge has rejected the state's request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Palm Beach County School Board that challenges a controversial new education law. After holding a hearing in the case, Leon County Circuit Judge James Shelfer issued a two-paragraph order late Monday afternoon denying the state's motion for dismissal. The Palm Beach County School Board in September filed the case, which challenges a law, commonly known as HB 7069, that the Legislature passed this spring. The case targets part of the law requiring school boards to share with charter schools a portion of property-tax...

Florida officials defend new charter school law

Lawyers for the state of Florida argue local school boards don't have the authority to challenge several contentious provisions of a new education law. Thirteen school boards this fall filed a wide-ranging lawsuit to block six key provisions of HB 7069. The state responded this week, asking a Leon County circuit judge to dismiss the case. It argues the school boards don't have legal standing to challenge five of those provisions. The state's lawyers cite court cases that found constitutional officers — including school district officials — can't challenge laws that affect their official duties, unless the law they challenge forces officials to...