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Gainesville kindergarten teacher squares off with Florida lawyers

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A fiery kindergarten teacher squared off against Florida lawyers Monday as a lawsuit challenging the adequacy of the state's school funding entered its third week.

Gainesville kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles told an attorney for the state Monday that her students used to spend more time preparing for the test than the attorney spent getting ready to take his law school admission test.

In 1998, voters tired of underperforming schools added language to the state constitution, saying it is a paramount duty of the state to provide a high quality system of free public schools.

The lawsuit, started in 2010, is entering its third week. Bowles was on center stage. In 2014, she refused to give her students a state standardized test.

Within weeks of Bowles' refusal, the state suspended the tests for all kindergartners. Bowles told the court the tests were eating up valuable classroom time.

"You have to wonder if all this testing wasn’t taking place, how much of that money could be used in appropriate ways in the classroom," Bowles said.

Lawyers also questioned the regional director of school improvement who oversees five underperforming Pinellas County Schools.

"Maximo has been an 'F' school for four years in a row," said Circuit Judge George Reynolds. "It’s a priority and they are in the implementation stage of a turnaround plan? That's pretty bleak"

Attempts to use fewer, and nationally-standardized, tests failed during the recent legislative session. But during the debate, lawmakers acknowledged the state is spending more than $100 million per year on tests alone.