Fla. Supreme Court decision could end PBC school board’s fight to block a charter school

Renaissance Charter in Royal Palm Beach is one of six Charter Schools USA schools in Palm Beach County. (File photo)

The Florida Supreme Court handed a legal victory Tuesday to a charter school company battling the Palm Beach County School Board for the right to open a school west of Delray Beach.

In a decision announced today, justices refused to hear the school board’s appeal of the case, letting stand a lower court decision that affirmed the state government’s power to overrule school boards regarding whether charter schools can open.

The decision could force the school board to allow the company, Charter Schools USA, and an affiliated non-profit to open the school after nearly three years of legal battles. The company operates six other schools in Palm Beach County under the Renaissance name.

The legal tangle started in December 2014, when the school board unexpectedly overruled school district officials and voted to reject the company’s application to open a new school west of Delray Beach.

School district officials said the school met all of their criteria, but board members declared that the school should not be allowed to open because it was not “innovative.”

The non-profit that applied to open the school, Florida Charter Education Foundation, appealed to the state Board of Education, which overruled the county school board.

The school board sued, arguing that under Florida’s constitution only school boards can decide which charter schools open in their jurisdiction.

In January, the appeals court called that argument “meritless.”

The school board appealed once again, this time to the state Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the court denied the request for an appeal.

Florida Charter Education Foundation, which applied to open the school on Charter Schools USA’s behalf. said that it was “obviously pleased” by the Supreme Court’s decision, calling the school board’s appeals an attempt to “limit parental choice in education.”

“Finally Palm Beach County taxpayer dollars can go toward educating students instead of financing frivolous lawsuits,” said Rod Jurado, the non-profit’s chairman. “We look forward to putting this behind us so that we can work positively with the school board toward doing what is best for students.”

Before the school can open, the non-profit will have to resubmit its appeal to the state.

In January, the appeals court court ordered that a state charter school appeal commission review the case again and send the state Board of Education a “fact-based justification” to consider.

The state board is not required to follow the appeal commission recommendation.

In a statement, the school district conceded that the charter school company could now move forward with a new request for the state Board of Education to overturn the school board’s decision.

“The Florida Supreme Court had the discretion either to take the case or not,” the district said. “The court did not explain its reasoning for declining to take the case.”

 

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