Southern Legal Counsel Plans Appeal

justiceIt is a marathon in the Citizens for Strong Schools case.
Attorneys for the Southern Legal Counsel issued a statement regarding Judge Reynold’s ruling in the Citizens for Strong Schools vs. the Florida State Board of Education et al. The judge ruled for the State.  Basically, the ruling will be appealed.  This is no surprise; it would have been appealed regardless of which side won.
SLC issued the following statement:
“Today, the Second Judicial Circuit Court issued an order that ignores the overwhelming weight of the evidence that the public education system in Florida is failing more than a million students. Even though Florida’s constitution is the strongest educational mandate of all the states, the court incorrectly concluded that the constitution has no judicially manageable standards and that the court is prohibited from ordering relief due to separation of powers.  Southern Legal Counsel plans to appeal this decision and continue to seek a high quality education for all children in Florida”.
The final judgment considered the claims and counter claims over the constitutionality of the Florida educational system.  Highlights include:
  • Judge Reynolds ruled that the State has made education a top priority in terms of funding.  Moreover, he states that neither the defendants or the plaintiffs established the connection between the amount of resources and educational outcomes.
  • The Differentiated Accountability system needed legislative attention.   The fact that schools could remain in ‘F’ status over a number of years was the judge’s primary objection to the state system.  He argued, however, that the defendant’s own evidence showed that a school could be turned around without additional funding.
  • Districts were part of the state system.  Districts had control over local management and funding allocations and the State was not responsible for ineffective local management.
  • The constitutionality of school choice was dismissed by the judge.  He did not agree that charters and tax credit funded private schools had a negative effect on the system.
  • Judge Reynolds wrote:  “The evidence shows that many of Florida’s educational policies and programs are subject to ongoing debate without any definitive consensus in the education community.  They are political questions best resolved in the political arena”, and
  • “The Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgement without a judicially manageable or enforceable remedy.”  In other words, the cost study sought by the Plaintiffs was not a remedy.
While Judge Reynolds did concede that there were areas of concern in the Florida educational system, they did not rise to the level of constitutional violation.  This was a David vs. Goliath case.  It was reported that the State spent over two million dollars on its side while Southern Legal Counsel’s expenses were around $600,000.  SLC has to raise funds from donations while the State uses tax payer funds.  Going forward, Florida citizens will need to help equalize the balance.

A Charter School Sues Itself?

money-40603_1280Have you ever known something did not smell right, but you could not find the source?  A court in Missouri found it.

In Renaissance Academy for Math and Science vs. Imagine Schools, the court ruled there was hidden self dealing.  The judge fined Imagine Schools one million dollars.  This was just one school in trouble in St. Louis,  Missouri at the time.  Thirty-five hundred children had to be relocated when all Imagine charters were forced to close in St. Louis.

We all need to know how this can happen.  It is not unusual.

Continue reading

Lawsuit Testimony Can Break Your Heart

justiceFlorida’s educational system is on trial in Tallahassee.  The charge?  One million Florida students cannot read at grade level.  Testimony about the plight of these children can break your heart.  Thousands are homeless.  Most are from poor families.  In some rural counties children are too hungry to learn, and schools provide three meals a day.  These children, the plaintiffs argue need much more than school districts can provide with current funding.  

The Florida League of Women Voters recognizes that the solutions to these problems are complex, but applauds the attention the suit brings to the weaknesses in our educational system.  What are the arguments and what is the defense?  What do the witnesses say? 

Continue reading

Attacking Tenure: Why?

teacher-403004_1280 (1)

What are these anti tenure cases really about?  Are reformers convinced the workforce has more than its share of ineffective teachers?   Or, are they concerned many teachers prefer to work in traditional schools where they can earn higher salaries and benefits?  Thus, charters and private schools struggle to compete for high quality teachers.

There is a general anti union undercurrent, but I am continually surprised how few Floridians seem to know that tenure in Florida is a thing of the past.  Why are other states filing law suits?

Continue reading

Will Pinellas Failure Factories Turn Around?

FAILED1Pinellas is taking on its failing schools.  This blog reported on the Tampa Bay Times series on south Pinellas schools that had essentially been abandoned when federal desegregation regulations were lifted in 2007.  I remember Judge Reynolds’ statement a week ago in the Citizens for Strong Schools case.  He said he could not believe that the Florida DOE had not intervened when schools received an ‘F’ grade four years in a row.



Continue reading

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

justiceThe defense (Florida) in Citizens for Strong Schools argues that districts have enough money or can get enough through discretionary millage assessment on property taxes.  The problem they assert, is mismanagement and a reordering of priorities.  Do they have a point?   You can check out this claim in your local districts.  We are looking into budget priorities in Alachua County.  We have also looked at the state audits of the district in past years.  The hard choices they suggest are destructive choices.  They can rob the programs that the State brags about to help improve conditions for at risk kids.  Some choices are just bad choices.

Continue reading