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Justices will weigh education amendment case

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously agreed to take up a legal battle about whether a proposed education constitutional amendment should be on the November ballot.

Justices issued an order accepting the case only two days after Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled that the proposed amendment should not go before voters because of misleading wording.

The state quickly appealed Cooper’s ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeal, which then passed it to the Supreme Court.

A panel of the appeals court said Wednesday it “certifies that this appeal involves a question of great public importance and requires immediate resolution by the Supreme Court of Florida.”

Cooper ruled that the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment would not adequately inform voters of its potential impact on the creation of charter schools.

The proposed amendment, placed on the ballot by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, would impose eight-year term limits on school board members and would require the promotion of “civic literacy” in public schools.

But a provision that drew a legal challenge from the League of Women Voters of Florida would allow the state to operate and control public schools “not established by the school board,” wording that opponents said would lead to the expansion of charter schools.

“The failure to use the term voters would understand, ‘charter schools,’ as well as the use of a phrase that has no established meaning under Florida law, fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect of this proposal,” Cooper wrote.

With general-election ballots starting to be mailed to voters in September, the Supreme Court indicated it likely will move quickly in the case. It ordered the state to file a brief by noon Monday.