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Supreme Court declines to take up education fight

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to wade into a legal battle about a controversial new education law, sending the case to a lower court for consideration.

Nine school boards last month filed a case directly in the Supreme Court seeking to block the wide-ranging law, commonly known as HB 7069, which was passed this spring by the Legislature.

The challenge contended that the law violates part of the Florida Constitution that requires legislation to deal with single subjects.

In the challenge, the school boards sought what is known as a “writ of quo warranto” finding that the Legislature violated the Constitution because of the single-subject issue. They also sought what is known as “writs of mandamus” that, in part, would direct Education Commissioner Pam Stewart to stop carrying out the law and direct Secretary of State Ken Detzner to expunge the law from official records.

In a 4-3 order Tuesday, however, the Supreme Court sent the case to Leon County circuit court without taking a position on the underlying issues.

“The transfer of this case should not be construed as an adjudication or comment on the merits of the petition, nor as a determination that the transferee court has jurisdiction or that the petition has been properly denominated as a petition for writs of quo warranto and writs of mandamus,” said the order backed by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Charles Canady, Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson. “The transferee court should not interpret the transfer of this case as an indication that it must or should reach the merits of the petition.”

The case will join two other lawsuits pending in Leon County circuit court that challenge the controversial law, which was spearheaded by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes.

The other suits also were filed by school boards and contend that the law is unconstitutional because it would undermine the authority of county school boards.