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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida's education system a step closer to trial



Leon County circuit judge Jackie L. Fulford has ruled that a potentially far-reaching lawsuit filed in November by angry parents groups can proceed, though no time line has been set.

Fulford issued an order Friday denying a motion to dismiss that was filed in February by the defendants, which include the state Board of Education and Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith. The plaintiffs received the order Wednesday.

“This means at some point, you’ll get to cover one heck of an interesting trial,” Jon Mills, a former Florida House speaker who is part of the legal team representing the plaintiffs, told the Gradebook Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office – which is representing the defendants – declined comment. A spokesman for the state Department of Education did not have an immediate response.

 The suit filed by the Orlando-based parents group Fund Education Now and other plaintiffs charges that Florida is violating the state Constitution by not pouring enough money into schools and putting too much emphasis on high-stakes testing. Backed by Mills and other prominent Democrats, the suit blasts away at a sweeping array of education policies put into place by former Gov. Jeb Bush and kept largely intact by Gov. Charlie Crist.

A similar suit filed in 1996 was initially dismissed in a lower court and ultimately dismissed by the Florida Supreme Court. But in 1998, 71 percent of Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that says educating children is a “paramount duty” of the state and the state shall make “adequate provision” for a school system that is “uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality.”

A trial still isn't likely until at least next year. Read more here.

[Last modified: Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:53pm]


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