Attorneys representing nine county school district boards made last-pitch arguments last week to persuade the Florida Supreme Court to hear their challenge of a 2017 state law that, among other actions, required districts to share revenues, including property taxes, with charter schools.
In a 13-page brief, the districts maintain that their School Board of Alachua County Florida v. Department of Education lawsuit is about ensuring “local control over local schools by local representatives answerable to local voters.”
The school boards filed a notice in late September that they wanted the Supreme Court to hear their case after a Leon County Circuit Court judge upheld House Bill 7069 in January and the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected their appeal, ruling in August that local districts funding charter schools in their jurisdiction does not violate the state constitution.
"The fact that the school boards in Florida continue to have a role in the operation of charter schools supports our conclusion that HB 7069’s capital millage provisions are constitutional," Justice Joseph Lewis, Jr., wrote.
HB 7069 mandates local boards allocate a portion of capital revenues to "schools of hope" charter schools, which are established in continually low-performing areas of school districts.
The districts say HB 7069 forces them to pay for schools outside their control and supervision.
The boards asked for an injunction blocking the implementation of the statute when 14 school boards signed onto the original lawsuit.
The eight county school districts still engaged in the lawsuit – Alachua, Lee, Bay, Broward, Hamilton, Orange, Polk, St. Lucie, Volusia – argue in their appeal to the Supreme Court that the high court has “discretionary jurisdiction" in reviewing a matter that “directly conflicts with decisions of the Supreme Court and other district courts of appeal on the same question of law.”
The districts maintain HB 7069 violates two articles of the Florida Constitution relating to the raising of revenue, both locally and from federal funds. They say private charter schools not under public school district control should not receive money raised for public schools.
That argument was dismissed by the 1st District Court of Appeal on its August rejection of the district’s appeal.
John Haughey is the Florida contributor to The Center Square.