Welcome to the fight, Pinellas County. The School Board is poised to follow the recommendation of superintendent Mike Grego and join other districts around the state in a lawsuit challenging a wrongheaded law that further erodes local control of education.
The board is expected to vote on Grego's recommendation Tuesday, and members seem to be prepared to take a stand against Tallahassee's continuing overreach. Among other things, HB 7069 that was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott this spring would direct more taxpayer money to charter schools for the construction and maintenance of school buildings that do not belong to the district. It also allows charters to open without local approval if nearby schools are underperforming on standardized tests.
While the law would adversely affect the entire state, Pinellas has a particularly good reason for joining the legal fight. The way the new law is written, school districts that have little debt would be forced to turn over a greater portion of money for charter construction. So Pinellas, in effect, would be penalized for having been a good steward of public funds and maintaining a low ratio of debt.
There is strength in numbers, and joining Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Duval, Orange and other large districts in this challenge would benefit the lawsuit both financially and in terms of creating a united front. The inclusion of Pinellas would mean that school boards representing roughly 47 percent of Florida's public school students are ready to do battle with the ideologues in Tallahassee. Pinellas officials should lead the way on Tuesday and hope more school boards follow their example.