Palm Beach County could be the next school district to sue the state over a controversial education law that critics say favors charter schools at the expense of Florida’s public schools.
Superintendent Robert Avossa is expected to ask the Palm Beach County School Board at its meeting later today to join in Broward County’s lawsuit against the state challenging HB 7069. Broward schools voted two weeks ago to sue the state over the new law.
The St. Lucie County School Board recently agreed to join in the lawsuit. Manatee, Miami-Dade and Pinellas schools are expected to consider joining in the coming weeks.
Andrea Messina, the executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said “many (school boards) are watching very carefully.”
Pinellas County School Board members discussed the possibility of joining the lawsuit during a workshop Tuesday evening.
Attorney David Koperski told board members there would likely be a single lawsuit that will be joined by a number of school boards. He says the legal challenge would probably be filed in a month and would be based on the rule that legislation can only address a single subject. HB 7069 included items from dozens of other bills.
Koperski recommended to Pinellas board members that they make a decision on whether to join the lawsuit by August 15.
The bill passed in the final days of this year’s regular legislative session after a series of backroom negotiations that resulted in a massive 278-page, $419 million dollar piece of legislation.
The bill included a wide range of issues ranging from mandatory recess for public elementary school students to teacher bonuses.
But critics claim the real purpose of the bill was to help charter schools.
The law creates the “Schools of Hope” program. Under that program, the state would put $140 million dollars into a fund that charter operators could access. The charters could use those tax dollars to open new schools in areas where elementary and middle schools have been rated D or F schools for at least three years in a row.
In addition to receiving tax dollars, the charter facilities would not be required to follow the same set of rules as do public schools.
In its challenge, Broward County schools claim the law restricts the district from controlling and supervising all schools within its jurisdiction. It will also assert the tax sharing component violates the state constitution by permitting charter schools to use property taxes.
Broward schools estimate it could lose at least $100 million in capital funds over the next five years as a result of the new law.
Earlier this week, school superintendents from across Florida appeared before the Florida Board of Education at its meeting in Tallahassee. They warned that public school facilities would suffer if the new law is allowed to be implemented.
Charter school advocates accuse Palm Beach County and the other school districts that are challenging or considering challenging the new education law of waging war against charter schools.
Lynn Norman-Teck, a charter school parent and executive director of the Florida Charter School Alliance, said “the Palm Beach County superintendent wants to wage war on the very schools that are helping students achieve academic excellence.
“The lawsuit is wrong,” she added. “It is an attempt to choke parental choice and penalize families who choose to attend a public charter school.”