Amendment 8 was ruled off the ballot on Monday but the State appealed the decision. The Appellate Court immediately referred the case to the Florida Supreme Court saying “The case involves a question of great public importance and requires immediate resolution by the Supreme Court”. Briefs are to be filed next week. Read the background here. This is the Florida League of Women Voters lawsuit.
In the Public Interest published this mini video on the costs to neighborhood schools when charters drain available funds. This video was done in California which leads the nation in the number of charters. The problems are like those in Florida. Take a minute and watch here.
On November 8,2018 the Florida Supreme Court will be asked to decide whether Florida is meeting its “paramount duty” to provide “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools.” The constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters in 1998 assigned this responsibility to the state. Has Florida met its obligation to the children of Florida?
Two lower courts have ruled in Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education that the question is not one for the courts to decide, and that it is instead up to the Florida Legislature. The plaintiffs disagree.
“At the heart of this case is really whether the Florida Constitution has any meaning at all in the eyes of our courts,” said Jodi Siegel, the executive director of Southern Legal Counsel, a Gainesville-based, statewide nonprofit law firm representing the parents and advocacy groups that filed original case and have appealed it to the state’s highest court.
“The lower courts have basically said that only two of the three branches of our government have any responsibility for enforcing an amendment that clearly expresses the will of the people when it comes to one of the most fundamental responsibilities of government – educating the state’s children,” Siegel said. “We believe the Florida Supreme Court will recognize that the courts not only have that authority, but in fact that it is their sworn duty to uphold the Florida Constitution – and not just select parts of it, but all of it.”
Southern Legal Counsel filed the case in 2009, and it has been working its way through the courts until now. If successful, the parents and advocacy groups are requesting that the Court remand the case back to the trial court with instructions on how to interpret and apply the education clause. They contend that, when viewed under the proper legal standards, the evidence presented at trial shows clear disparities in the opportunity provided to children to receive a high quality education. For example, the evidence presented showed that more than 40 percent of Florida students are not passing statewide assessments in reading and math.
The Florida League of Women Voters strongly supports the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.
The State was quick to respond to the Leon County judge’s decision to remove Amendment 8 from the ballot. Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a brief to the Florida Supreme Court to reject proposals to remove six amendments, including Amendment 8, to Florida’s constitution from the ballot. A specific appeal to the LWVF case was also filed.
The Tallahassee circuit court rendered a decision today that Amendment 8 was misleading the public by combining multiple proposals and using vague language. There are other amendments that use the same tactic.
Separate cases have been filed arguing that six of the proposed constitutional amendments also combined multiple measures so that voters would have to approve all proposals or none in any given amendment.
Bondi stated that combining multiple proposals into one did not violate the single subject rule. This rule, she contends, does not apply to the legislature or to the Constitutional Revision Commission(CRC) because both provide public hearings. The CRC supposedly has safeguards against deception, but the League and other public interest groups have decried the inability of the CRC to follow its own procedures.
Read the State’s argument here.
What the Supreme Court decides is important to the transparency of our political system. If the decision is to let the public vote on these duplicitous measures, then November 6th becomes a critical date for the future of Florida’s educational system. Will we move forward with dismantling our public schools? The voters will decide. They must be well informed.
Amendment 8 to the Florida Constitution is off the November ballot. The Tallahassee judge ruled today that the League was correct in its claim that Amendment 8 was misleading to voters. The amendment did not specify that local school boards would lose the right to authorize charter schools. It also bundled that proposal with two others…term limits for school boards and a civics requirement for students. Civics is already required for students; it just is not in the constitution.
Amendment 8 was championed by Erica Donalds, a school board member from Collier County who started her own separate school board association. Her backers include a number of prominent conservatives who support school privatization. The League of Women Voters filed the complaint against Amendment 8. Here is the ruling.
No doubt there will be an appeal.
PBS interviewed some young people in Chicago about the high rate of shootings this past weekend. When asked why the high rate of violence, a black professor from Northeastern University and a young woman who works in the neighborhood replied. The area was turned into charter schools. Students were expected to leave the neighborhood to find schools across the city. They rebelled. As a result, high school students dropped out of school. They were unemployed and turned to gangs. This is the deteriorating neighborhood consequence of charter school expansion that we have heard many times before. Englewood neighborhood was down to only one public school. It’s the first time I have heard it unrehearsed directly from someone who lives it. You can watch it here Check the tape at 38 minutes into the broadcast.