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School boards try to speed up education law fight

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – School boards and the state are sparring about whether a challenge to a controversial 2017 education law should move quickly to the Florida Supreme Court.

Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper on April 17 upheld the law, which is commonly known as HB 7069 and includes a series of steps to boost charter schools.

Cooper’s ruling led 11 school boards to appeal to the 1st District Court of Appeal. Last week, 10 of those school boards filed a document requesting that the case be quickly “certified” to the Supreme Court because of the need for immediate resolution.

Lawyers for the state responded Friday, arguing that the case should go through the regular appeals process.

The wide-ranging law, a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, included changes such as requiring county school boards to share local property-tax revenues with charter schools for building-related expenses.

It also set the stage for adding new charter schools -- dubbed “schools of hope” -- that will serve students whose traditional public schools have been considered low-performing.

The school boards contend in the legal challenge that the law usurps their constitutional authority to operate public schools.

In the filing last week seeking to move quickly to the Supreme Court, the school boards said they need to make decisions about issues such as their budgets.

“There can be no doubt that this constitutional debate between state and local control over education is a question of great public importance that should be, and likely will be, decided by the Florida Supreme Court,” attorneys for the school boards said in a document posted on the appeals-court website. “Thus, the question of whether early certification to the Florida Supreme Court is required rests on immediacy; that is, how important is it for the case to be resolved without waiting for two levels of appellate scrutiny to unfold? Here, an early final decision is critically important.”

But in the response filed Friday at the appeals court, the state’s lawyers argued there is “no emergency here, and none of these challenges require immediate resolution” by the Supreme Court.

“No special urgency warrants certification for pass-through jurisdiction here, and the normal appellate process should run its course,” the state’s lawyers argued.