PBC school board joins suit over charter-friendly education law

Gov. Rick Scott during a visit to Galaxy Elementary School in 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County School Board members voted Wednesday to join at least six other Florida school boards in a lawsuit over charter school-friendly legislation passed this spring and signed by Gov. Rick Scott in June.

Without discussion or debate, board members unanimously authorized joining a growing group of school boards planning to sue the state on the grounds that parts of a controversial education bill, House Bill 7069, violate Florida’s constitution.

Board members okayed paying up to $25,000 in legal fees to participate in the planned lawsuit. They would still have to sign off before officially joining any litigation.

More than a dozen county school boards across the state are mulling whether to join the lawsuit. School Board General Counsel JulieAnn Rico said six others are officially on board: Broward, Miami-Dade, Saint Lucie, Volusia, Lee and Bay counties. Miami-Dade’s school board also voted Wednesday to join the planned legal action.

>> RELATED: Gov. Scott just signed HB 7069. Here’s what it does

House Bill 7069, a sweeping 274-page education overhaul, forces school districts to share construction money with charter schools and creates financial incentives for new charters to open and compete with low-performing public schools.

In Palm Beach County, the provision requiring school boards to share  property tax revenue dedicated to construction and maintenance will cost the school district an estimated $10 million next year alone, or about 2 percent of the district’s roughly $400 million capital budget.

That figure is expected to rise as the number of charter schools grows.

Educators argued that the law illegally restricts school boards’ sovereignty and improperly gives charters a portion of property tax proceeds. They allege the bill also violates a requirement that legislative bills focus on a single subject.

Charter school advocates have condemned the plans for legal action, saying that charters are entitled to a portion of the school board’s contruction money since they educate public school students as well.

Though board members approved the lawsuit without discussion, in recent weeks board members and Superintendent Robert Avossa have made clear their intent to fight the law tooth-and-nail in court.

Last month School Board member Marcia Andrews called House Bill 7069 “a monster that needs to be really, really answered to by all school districts.”

“We must do something,” she said at the time. “It’s really important when we look at this bill.”

Avossa said last month that the new law could have large impacts on the school district’s ability to build and maintain schools.

“This transfer of public funds to private entities is very worrisome,” he said. “I don’t want folks to look back and say ‘Why didn’t they fight tooth and nail?’”

 

Reader Comments 0

0 comments