‘Framers' of schools amendment seek role in court battle

By The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Some members of the 1998 Constitution Revision Commission are seeking to file a brief in the Florida Supreme Court as part of a legal battle about whether the state is meeting its constitutional duty to provide a high-quality system of public schools.

Describing themselves as the “framers” of a 1998 ballot measure that put the duty in the Constitution, the former commissioners filed a motion Tuesday asking for approval to file a friend-of-the-court brief.

A footnote in the motion indicates 10 former commissioners want to join in the brief, including former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, former Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan and former House Speaker Jon Mills.

The motion came in a long-running legal battle led by the group Citizens for Strong Schools, which argues that the state has failed to comply with the 1998 voter-approved amendment.

A Leon County circuit judge and the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected the arguments, leading Citizens for Strong Schools and other plaintiffs to go to the Supreme Court.

The 1998 constitutional amendment says it is a "paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders."

The amendment fleshed that out, in part, by saying adequate provision will be made for a "uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system" of public schools.

The plaintiffs argue the state has not met those standards and should be forced to take steps to carry out the constitutional amendment.

But the 1st District Court of Appeal said, in part, it is not the role of judges to determine education policy.

In the motion filed Tuesday, the former Constitution Revision Commissioners said they want to address such issues in support of the plaintiffs.

“The commissioners, who are to be parties on this brief, were the framers of the (Florida Constitution) Article IX education amendments, and they wish to convey to the (Supreme) Court … their intent and legal basis for proposing the amendments to Article IX along with a legal analysis of how and why the 1998 amendments to Article IX provide judicially manageable standards, so that Florida children have access to the courts when it comes to their education,” the motion said.

The state opposes the commissioners filing the brief, the motion indicated.

News Service of Florida