Wednesday, August 15, 2018

State Supreme Court accepts 2009 school funding case

Nearly a decade after some Florida parents first argued the state Legislature does not adequately fund public education as the constitution requires, the Florida Supreme Court has agreed to take up the question.

In a 4-1 ruling issued late Monday, the court accepted jurisdiction of the Citizens for Strong Schools case. It gave the plaintiffs until May 21 to file their initial brief, and the respondents 20 days afterward to answer.

The court did not set a date for oral argument.

The fate of the case had been in question after the First District Court of Appeal sided with the initial trial court against the plaintiffs. The appellate panel opined that it was not up to the courts to decide the question of whether Florida's legislative and executive branches had done enough to meet the "paramount duty" in serving children's educational needs.

Words like "efficient" and "high quality" are political, the court stated, and not objectively measurable criteria for a court to determine.

"There is no language or authority in Article IX, section 1(a) that would empower judges to order the enactment of educational policies regarding teaching methods and accountability, the appropriate funding of public schools, the proper allowance of charter schools and school choice, the best methods of student accountability and school accountability, and related funding priorities," Chief Judge Bradford L. Thomas wrote for the appellate court.

Related: Appeals court upholds ruling against Florida education funding challenge 

The case had been on hold during the legislative session, at lawmakers' request. It was reinstated 15 days after session ended. The case has slowly been moving through the courts since 2009. The initial trial took place in 2016.

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