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School boards urge justices to decide education fight

Alachua County among 9 school boards

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(Photo by Tim Ross)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Saying the case involves protecting "local control over local schools by local representatives answerable to local voters," nine county school boards urged the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday to take up a battle about a 2017 state law that sought to bolster charter schools.

Attorneys for the school boards filed a 13-page brief arguing that the Supreme Court should hear an appeal of a ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal that upheld the constitutionality of the law.

The law, known in education circles by the shorthand HB 7069, included steps to direct additional money to charter schools and to authorize "schools of hope," a new type of charter school aimed at areas where children have been served by low-performing traditional public schools.

The school boards contend that the law gave too much power to the state and violated part of the Florida Constitution about local operation of schools.

"The heart of this important dispute is the tension between two key constitutional provisions setting forth the relative powers of state administrators and local school boards," the brief said. "Determining the extent to which the state can intrude on local power has enormous practical consequences and impacts nearly every constitutional duty the school boards must perform. This case provides the perfect vehicle to examine just what it means for the state to provide for a uniform system of public education, while reserving to local school boards the right to ‘operate, control and supervise' the schools within their district."

Attorneys for the state have not yet filed a brief on whether the Supreme Court should take up the issue.

The nine school boards are from Alachua, Bay, Broward, Hamilton, Lee, Orange, Polk, St. Lucie and Volusia counties.