Leon County Judge John Cooper erred in his decision to remove Amendment 8 from the November ballot, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi argued in a briefing filed with the state Supreme Court on Monday just ahead of deadline.
The amendment "fully and accurately advises the electorate" of its purpose, Bondi asserted, countering the judgment that the measure was misleading and confusing. The item seeks to establish school board term limits, embed civics education in the state constitution, and allow creation of an alternate path to establish public schools including charters outside school board authority.
Bondi further argued against the contention that the proposal omits key information about the role of the state regarding charter schools. The plaintiffs in the original case, now on appeal to the Supreme Court, argued that the amendment hides the true intent of creating a state charter school authorizer to get around school boards.
The court has scheduled to hear oral arguments at 2 p.m. Wednesday Sept. 5.
The defense contended that it was looking to end the "monopoly" over public schools, but was not trying to dictate the future look of oversight and operations.
"This is important because … the Constitution does not say who shall establish traditional public K-12 public schools," the state wrote. "Currently, Section 1003.02, Florida Statutes assigns that authority to local school boards. The Constitution would, if amended by Revision 3, remain silent as to who shall establish traditional K-12 public schools, leaving to the Legislature who shall establish them and, in turn, who shall 'operate, control, and supervise' them.
The state has requested the Supreme Court return Amendment 8 to the ballot. The Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools and the Urban League of Greater Miami have asked to join the case on the state's side.
"It is obvious from Judge Cooper's order, that he didn't understand why the wording of Amendment 8 doesn't mention public charter schools specifically, or any other possible public schools for that matter. This was done intentionally, but not to mislead voters," the charter school consortium stated in a news release.
"The wording is intended to permit the amendment to be as flexible as possible as to what a future Legislature might choose to do in establishing public schools and to avoid the need for future constitutional amendments. This is what we will try to explain to the Supreme Court in the Amicus Brief."
The League of Women Voters has until Wednesday to respond to the state's briefing.
Related coverage: Judge orders Amendment 8 be removed from Florida ballot