Nine school boards ask Florida Supreme Court to block education law

Raising the prospect of “irreversible damage” to the public- education system, nine school boards want the Florida Supreme Court to block a massive education law approved in May.

The school boards late Monday filed a constitutional challenge at the Supreme Court to the bill, which has become known in the education world by the shorthand HB 7069. The 274-page bill, spearheaded by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, dealt with a wide range of issues, including controversial subjects such as charter schools and teacher bonuses.

The challenge contends that the law violates part of the Florida Constitution that requires legislation to deal with single subjects. It alleges HB 7069 is a “prototypical example of logrolled legislation” —- legislation that puts together a patchwork of issues.

School districts also have filed two lawsuits challenging HB 7069 in Leon County circuit court. But the new case filed directly to the Supreme Court involves different legal grounds and contends that immediate action is needed to block the law from moving forward.

“Waiting for a trial-court determination and its subsequent appellate review will allow irreversible damage to the function of the public education system to occur throughout the state of Florida,” the lawsuit said.

Plaintiffs named in the case are the school boards of Alachua, Bay, Broward, Hamilton, Lee, Polk, St. Lucie, Volusia and Wakulla counties.

In arguing the Supreme Court should take up the case, the school boards are seeking what is known as a “writ of quo warranto” finding that the Legislature violated the Constitution because of the single-subject issue. They also are seeking what are known as “writs of mandamus” that, in part, would direct Education Commissioner Pam Stewart to stop carrying out the law and direct Secretary of State Ken Detzner to expunge the law from official records.

When the bill was passed on the final day of the spring legislative session, Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, called it "the greatest educational K-12 policy that we've passed in the history of the state."

But the bill faced fierce opposition from school districts, in part because it was released just days before the end of the session and because of some of the changes included. Perhaps the highest-profile issues involved a plan known as “schools of hope,” which is designed to lead to charter schools locating near academically struggling public schools, and expansion of the state's Best and Brightest teacher bonus program.

The lawsuit filed at the Supreme Court said school boards would be required to enter into contracts with schools of hope, adding urgency to the constitutional issues being resolved.

“For every day that goes by, the number of schools created, teachers hired, and students transferred will grow,” the lawsuit said. “For every day that goes by, it will become more and more expensive, if not impossible, to reverse the effects of this legislation. The education of these students and the employment of these teachers are at risk. The education system and economy of Florida are intricately tied up in this broad legislation.”

A Corcoran spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

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