Judge Refuses To Dismiss Education Law Challenge

Dec 19, 2017

A circuit judge has rejected the state's request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Palm Beach County School Board that challenges a controversial new education law.

After holding a hearing in the case, Leon County Circuit Judge James Shelfer issued a two-paragraph order late Monday afternoon denying the state's motion for dismissal.

The Palm Beach County School Board in September filed the case, which challenges a law, commonly known as HB 7069, that the Legislature passed this spring. The case targets part of the law requiring school boards to share with charter schools a portion of property-tax revenues used for building projects.

The Palm Beach County board contends that the requirement violates the Florida Constitution by infringing on the rights of local school boards.

“By diverting a portion of school districts' ad valorem (property) taxes to a purpose mandated by the Legislature over which the School Board has no control, the charter school millage provisions place an unconstitutional constraint on the board's authority to levy ad valorem tax revenue for purposes determined by the board to be appropriate,” attorneys for the Palm Beach board argued in a brief this month.

But in the motion to dismiss the case, attorneys for the Florida Department of Education and State Board of Education argued the Palm Beach board's “claims are based on erroneous interpretations of the Florida Constitution” and pointed to the state's authority to supervise the public-school system.

“This authority allows the state to require local school boards to support all of their free public schools — including local charter schools — using both state and locally generated funds,” the motion to dismiss said.

The Palm Beach County case is one of two pending in Leon County circuit court that challenge HB 7069, which was championed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes. The other lawsuit was filed in October by 13 school boards.