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Fla. constitutional ‘framers’ want to weigh in on education adequacy lawsuit

News Service of Florida Some members of Florida's 1998 Constitution Revision Commission are seeking to file a brief in the Florida Supreme Court as part of a legal battle about whether the state is meeting its constitutional duty to provide a high-quality system of public schools. Describing themselves as the “framers” of a 1998 ballot measure that put the duty in the Constitution, the former commissioners filed a motion Tuesday asking for approval to file a friend-of-the-court brief. A footnote in the motion indicates 10 former commissioners want to join in the brief, including former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, former Supreme...

A new legal battle over Florida charter school capital funding rules

Another charter school is tangling with the Florida Department of Education, arguing its D letter grades shouldn't cause it to lose state capital funding. Kids Community College's Orange County school received consecutive D's from the state in both the 2015-6 and 2016-17 school years. New department rules, adopted last year, disqualify the school from state facilities funding. Those rules did not take effect without controversy. Several small charter school operators challenged the proposed rules and forced the department to delay them. As a result, the new rules took effect for the 2017-18 school year. However, the school argues its letter grades from previous...

Florida Supreme Court agrees to hear wide-ranging education lawsuit

Education activists hoped to put two decades of Florida education policy, and above all, funding, on trial. They will get their wish before the state Supreme Court. The high court agreed today, in a 4-1 decision, to hear appeals in the so-called "adequacy lawsuit." Alan Lawson, a new appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, was the lone vote against hearing the case. The suit, first filed by education activists in 2009, argues Florida's public schools are under-funded and hamstrung by policies like standardized testing, in violation of the state constitution. In 2014, the scope of the case widened considerably, and the plaintiffs took aim...

HB 7069 ruling shines light on long-simmering charter school disputes

Florida school districts have long asserted the power to approve and reject would-be charter schools as they saw fit. Legal gray areas remain. But a recent court ruling could help clarify some of them. The state constitution gives school boards the power to oversee all public schools within their boundaries. However, it also gives the Legislature and state Board of Education the power to regulate their use of that authority. The tension between state and local power has been at the heart of more than a decade's worth of legal battles over charter schools. Districts won a crucial legal victory in...

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...