Thursday, September 20, 2018

Florida Amendment 8 challenge stems from policy disagreement, not wording problems, secretary of state argues

A special counsel to the state Attorney General's Office contends that an effort to remove Amendment 8 from Florida's November ballot fails to meet the "heavy burden" required to interfere with the "sanctified" amendment process.

The League of Women Voters has argued that the proposal, which includes three education-related matters, has a misleading title and summary, and fails to inform voters of its true effects.

The amendment seeks to impose school board term limits, embed civics education in the constitution, and allow lawmakers to establish an alternate public school authorizer that is not subject to school board oversight.

Related coverage: Plaintiffs ask for summary judgment in Amendment 8 challenge 

"Amendment 8 suffers from none of these defects, and this Court should reject Plaintiffs' attempt to interfere with the amendment process, which attempt stems primarily from their disagreement with Amendment 8 as a matter of policy," wrote attorney Blaine H. Winship, representing the secretary of state's office.

Winship pointed to two "animating principles" governing amendments to the constitution.

First, he wrote, that the people have a sovereign right to amend the constitution, and quoted from precedent that stated the process should be limited "only by those instances where there is an entire failure to comply with a plain and essential requirement of the organic law in proposing the amendment."

Second, he continued, the judicial review of the process should be "extremely deferential." If any "reasonable theory" exists to back keeping a proposal on the ballot, it should remain, Winship argued, pointing to a separate precedent.

"Because the ballot title and summary for Amendment 8 provide ample notice to the voters using clear an unambiguous language, the Florida Electorate is entitled to vote on the amendment," Winship wrote.

Deeper into the motion, the defense touches upon the heated politics of the issues in the proposal.

Winship observes the constitution does not state how or by whom public schools are to be established. However, he continues, it gives "monopoly power" to school boards.

"That monopoly power — like all other aspects of public education — can be modified or eliminated per amendment of the constitution," it states. "This is the essence of a constitutional republic. And Amendment 8 proposes to do exactly that — if the voters agree."

The defense goes on to argue that the only misleading thing about this case is the plaintiffs' misrepresentation of what the amendment might do.

"Plaintiffs' attempt to look behind the actual language of the proposed amendment … by referring to statements made during the course of deliberations about the amendment, are outside the proper scope of the court's inquiry," the motion states.

See the defense motion here for more details.

Like the plaintiffs, the defendants have asked for summary judgment in their favor.  A hearing is scheduled before Leon County Judge John Cooper for 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Comments
Mental health provider that evaluated Nikolas Cruz picked to service charter schools

Mental health provider that evaluated Nikolas Cruz picked to service charter schools

Florida's largest charter school membership organization announced Wednesday that it is partnering with Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz's former mental health care provider to render services to schools.Broward County's Henderson Behavioral Heal...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Delayed Pasco charter school aims for Oct. 1 move to new site

Delayed Pasco charter school aims for Oct. 1 move to new site

Plato Academy Trinity has told parents and students it's targeting Oct. 1 to open its new building on Old County Road 54.It still has several permits to obtain if it wants to meet that latest deadline.The Pasco County charter school, serving about 25...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Gradebook podcast: DeSantis vs. Gillum and the future of Florida education policy

Gradebook podcast: DeSantis vs. Gillum and the future of Florida education policy

Florida's two major party candidates for governor have released their education platforms, and they couldn't have offered a more distinct choice.With the exception of wanting to expand career and technical education, and to pay teachers better, Repub...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Florida education news: Teacher pay, Red Tide, campaign contributions and more

Florida education news: Teacher pay, Red Tide, campaign contributions and more

TEACHER PAY: Pasco County teachers and staff continue to press for raises in the district's budget, getting only board promises to keep looking for funding. One School Board member urges his colleagues to make pay a top priority.RED TIDE: T...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Red Tide forces two Pinellas schools to move recess, physical education inside

Red Tide forces two Pinellas schools to move recess, physical education inside

Recess and physical education classes at two south Pinellas County schools were moved inside this week due to Red Tide, a toxic algae that continues to plague area beaches with throngs of dead fish and an unmistakable foul odor.Pr...
Published: 09/19/18
Pasco School Board candidate says charter school campaign contribution doesn’t define her

Pasco School Board candidate says charter school campaign contribution doesn’t define her

Early in the election cycle, Pasco County School Board candidate Tara O'Connor received criticism over her long list of supporters who are elected officials.Now, O'Connor is taking hits for accepting a $1,000 campaign contribution from Charter School...
Published: 09/19/18
Pasco board member presses colleagues, staff to set priorities

Pasco board member presses colleagues, staff to set priorities

As several teachers urged the Pasco School Board to improve their wages, one board member hammered home his view that the district has not followed through on raises despite setting that priority three straight years.Steve Luikart, who retires i...
Published: 09/19/18
Florida education news: Policy proposals, achievement gap, tax plans and more

Florida education news: Policy proposals, achievement gap, tax plans and more

CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Republican candidate for governor Ron DeSantis unveils his education plan for Florida, as Democrat Andrew Gillum highlights his proposals. Their positions could not be more starkly different, except for the area of career educati...
Published: 09/19/18
In town hall, Eakins takes school district's story to Ballast Point

In town hall, Eakins takes school district's story to Ballast Point

  TAMPA — First, the disclaimer: "I'm not here to tell you how to vote," Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins told his audience. "I'm here to educate you about why we're here." From there, in his Tuesday evening prese...
Published: 09/18/18
Updated: 09/19/18
Report: Pinellas improves on achievement gap, but needs to do better

Report: Pinellas improves on achievement gap, but needs to do better

School for black students in Pinellas County is getting better, according to a report detailing the school district's progress a year into its effort to close the educational achievement gap by 2027.Of the six measures included in...
Published: 09/18/18