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Battle over HB 7069 continues in Leon County court

Both sides seek quick judgment in the case.
Leon County Judge John Cooper is assigned the case in which several school districts are challenging HB 7069.
Leon County Judge John Cooper is assigned the case in which several school districts are challenging HB 7069.
Published Apr. 4, 2018
Updated Apr. 4, 2018

Lawyers for both sides of the legal challenge of HB 7069 — the 2017 multi-pronged education law that created Schools of Hope, among other actions — headed to Leon County Court on Wednesday to seek quick action on the case.

The defense is asking Judge John Cooper to issue summary judgment against the complaint.

Its argument runs that the involved school districts, which include Pinellas and Broward counties, have asked the courts to intervene in a political issue.

"The issues presented in this case are controversial matters of educational policy relating generally to charter school funding," the lawyers wrote. "Not everyone in the body politic agrees whether charter schools should receive more equitable funding. … However, the question of whether charter schools should receive nearly equitable funding was answered in the affirmative by the Florida Legislature through the changes made in HB 7069. That political decision is not for this court to second guess."

The defense contends that the state has exercised its constitutional authority to supervise public education, despite districts' argument that the constitution invests them with the power to oversee all public schools within their boundaries.

It further suggests the districts have no standing to bring the suit.

The plaintiffs disagreed that they lack standing in the case. They write, in part, that the districts are directly affected by the law, and that the law  "effectively prevents the School Board from exercising its constitutional rights and carrying out its constitutional duties."

A School Board represents its local taxpayers, the lawyers wrote, and as such should have standing to challenge the constitutionality of a law that would change the way local taxes are collected and used.

The plaintiffs also have filed a motion of their own for summary judgment in their own favor, arguing the measures within HB 7069 create a separate system of charter schools independent of local school district control.

Members of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission recently have noted the language of Article IX has stood in the way of alternate charter school authorizers, and have proposed an amendment.

The hearing was not available through streaming. Cooper has yet to publicly issue any ruling. You can find more information about the case on the court website, by clicking on "cases of statewide interest," and looking for School Board of Alachua County, Florida v. Florida State Board of Education.

Earlier this year, Cooper declined to issue a temporary injunction that would have allowed districts to avoid sending local capital tax revenue to charters, as required in the law.