Broward County school district to sue over HB 7069; Pinellas board reviews options

Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 7069 into law in mid-June.
Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 7069 into law in mid-June.
Published July 6, 2017

Amid much speculation it could happen, the Broward County School Board on Wednesday voted to sue the Florida Legislature over provisions of HB 7069, the controversial education conforming bill that barely passed the Senate this spring.

The Sun-Sentinel reported that the board agreed during a special session to spend up to $25,000 on the suit. It did so after reviewing a 10-page memorandum detailing the problems the district's general counsel found with the law. Among those, the lawyer wrote that the law:

- Violates the state's constitutional requirement that bills focus on a single subject, by encompassing more than 60 separate measures.

- Circumvents the constitutional mandate that school boards operate, control and supervise all public schools in their district, with the creation of a separate "schools of hope" charter school system.

- Violates the constitutional rules regarding ad valorem taxes for schools, with the requirement that districts distribute a portion of their capital funding tax revenue to charter schools.

"Although I believe this is a full and accurate review of the legislation, I am sure there are additional details and nuances that would further support the position that a Constitutional challenge is an appropriate action to take at this time," Broward general counsel Barbara Myrick wrote to the board.

Other school districts including Pinellas County are contemplating whether to join the challenge.

"At our last workshop, our attorney David Koperski said he was having conversations with attorneys around the state, talking about some things they are concerned about as far as violating the constitution in that bill," board member Carol Cook told the Gradebook. "We said, continue the conversation. We'll discuss it when we have more information."

Cook said Broward's action might bring the item back to the board at its July 18 workshop. She said Pinellas is nowhere near as close to a decision as Broward.

"It's not going to be an easy decision," she said, noting the bill and a legal battle have many pros and cons.

Dennis Alfonso, board attorney for Pasco and Hernando counties, said he had heard rumblings of lawsuit talk, but his board have had no discussions about joining.

Talk of a challenge began shortly after Gov. Scott signed the bill in mid-June. Even some key Republican lawmakers suggested it could come under scrutiny for the single-subject rules.

The case has yet to be filed in court. Reaction to the news came quickly, with bill backers criticizing it and bill critics backing it.

It is both unfortunate & unsurprising that Broward Schools would take this action to continue discrimination against public charter students

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who made HB 7069 a session priority, had harsh words as well.

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"This is another example of the educational bureaucracy putting the adults who administer the schools ahead of the children who attend the schools," Corcoran told the Gradebook. "Not only is it clueless, it is also arguably heartless, to sue to stop school children from getting recess, disabled children from getting funding, poor children from getting out of failure factories and teachers from getting more pay."

Read our full story for more details. The stay tuned.