The Palm Beach County School Board will file a lawsuit against the state over a new law that critics say will take millions of tax dollars from public classrooms and give to private charter schools.
The decision came during the board’s meeting Wednesday evening.
It’s the third school district in the state to take such action.
The Broward School Board voted two weeks ago to proceed with a lawsuit challenging the law, HB 7069, over a provision that requires local school districts to share tax dollars intended for capital projects with private charter schools.
Members of the St. Lucie County School Board have since voted to join Broward in its lawsuit.
But, the school board in Palm Beach wants to file its own lawsuit and not join the one being planned by Broward County.
“If we join with other districts, one lawsuit will be easy for the state to defend,” said Frank Barbieri, a Palm Beach board member. “Let the state go through the pain of having 17 or 20 lawsuits. Let’s make it as difficult for them as they’ve made it for us to operate our schools.”
The board voted to work with a national law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, which has offices in South Florida. The firm’s chairman, David Boies, represented Al Gore in the Supreme Court case during the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida.
More than a dozen other schools districts are reportedly considering suing the state over new law.
Palm Beach County school officials say the law could require the district to share as much as $92 million in the next five years. Broward estimates it will cost their school system $100 million.
Supporters of the law accuse the counties of waging war against charter schools.
“Education dollars, whether allocated by the state or raised locally, should be allotted to the child they are earmarked for and not find their way into courtrooms in an effort to maintain a funding formula that treats one select group of students better than others,” said Lynn Norman-Teck, a charter school parent and executive director of the Florida Charter School Alliance.
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.
The districts that have decided to sue the state or are considering a possible lawsuit claim those provisions violate Florida’s constitution.