The importance of Florida's long-running education equity suit, Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida Board of Education, continues to become more apparent as a spate of heavy hitters join in the battle that's headed to the state Supreme Court.
One of the more interesting aspects is how the case has divided members of the 1998 Constitution Revision Commission that placed before voters the very "efficient" and "high quality" language that's now at the center of the storm.
One group of the "framers" (mostly Democrats) entered the case as friends of the plaintiffs, contending the voter-approved amendment requiring a "uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools" carries a clear message that the courts should enforce.
Another set (mostly Republicans) stepped in to encourage the justices to disregard its former colleagues. Its briefing, which became available this week, contends as expected that new arguments should not be allowed at this stage of the case, and that constitutional and policy reasons should dissuade a judicial intervention.
But then the group takes the added step of arguing, essentially, that the views of the other CRC members should not matter: "The Members' interest in this appeal is to demonstrate that individual views of CRC commissioners do not assist this Court's interpretation of the constitutional amendment at issue."
"The amicus brief filed by certain Commissioners of the CRC seeks to assure this Court that their individual intent was to create justiciable standards. The intent of a few members, however, does not mean they established justiciable standards by using the words 'high quality' and 'efficient. Moreover, even if an individual's intent is relevant to the Court's analysis in this case, it is clear that not all CRC members understood what 'high quality' and 'efficient' meant. And, the intent of the CRC as a whole was to avoid litigation of the type brought in this case."
Notably, the records of the 1998 CRC indicate that some members at the time worried that the vagueness of the language could require court action to resolve them. That action, it appears, is fast approaching.