School districts in Florida are considering joining Broward County in challenging the massive education bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year. Meanwhile, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, a chief proponent of the bill, is digging in his heels ready to defend the measure.
Palm Beach school board members are expected to discuss joining the Broward lawsuit when they meet next week. The Manatee School Board is expected to do the same when it meets in two weeks. Other counties reportedly considering joining the case include Orange, Miami-Dade, and Pinellas.
“Board members across the state are carefully reviewing the impacts of 7069 on their districts and the merits of potential judicial filings by other districts,” said Andrea Messina, the executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. “They want to be critical in their review and consideration, but several are seeing no alternative but consider it seriously.”
The massive 274-page bill that cost more than $400 million was signed into law last month by Gov. Rick Scott. It’s scope is widespread ranging from the mandate of recess for elementary students to teacher bonuses.
But what has raised the ire of school boards are provisions concerning charter schools.
Broward became the first school district last week to actually announce its intentions to challenge those provisions in the courts.
Critics argue the law benefits charter schools by allowing them to tap into tax dollars that normally would go to traditional public schools. The law would also take away a school district’s authority to approve charter school applications.
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.
Broward County estimates it’s schools could lose at least $100 million in capital funds over the next five years as a result of the new law.
The House was quick to respond with a video supporting the program.
The video runs just over two minutes and features pictures of school children with voice over from House Republicans stating why the Schools of Hope program is needed. They accuse critics of wanting to maintain the status quo in public schools and turning their backs on the thousands of children who attend failing schools.
The release of the video was accompanied by a tweet by Corcoran.
“As they prepare to sue … we help prepare kids to soar,” Corcoran wrote on Twitter.