Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval School Board Joins Suit against Florida Law; State School Districts Say Some Provisions Are Unconstitutional

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval School Board Joins Suit against Florida Law; State School Districts Say Some Provisions Are Unconstitutional

Article excerpt

Byline: Amanda Williamson

Duval school board members voted 4-2 Monday morning to join 10 other districts suing the state over a major education law passed by the Florida Legislature last spring.

The law known as House Bill 7069 contains a number of measures school district lawyers around the state say are unconstitutional and will hurt those districts while benefiting charter schools.

The law went into effect July 1.

Voting to join the lawsuit were Board Chairwoman Paula Wright, members Lori Hershey, Becki Couch, and Warren Jones. Ashley Smith Juarez and Scott Shine voted against the measure. Cheryl Grymes was absent.

Ten districts so far have agreed to challenge the constitutionality of the law in a joint lawsuit, including Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Broward counties. So far, the districts have each contributed $10,000 to $30,000 to the effort, depending on enrollment size, but the preliminary budget is expected to total $400,000.

The decision authorizes the district's General Counsel to pursue litigation against the state for House Bill 7069, a bill the board believes will negatively impact its ability to carry out its responsibilities. Funding for the litigation will be paid from non-public funds and not exceed $25,000 without additional School Board approval.

"This is not about taking choices away from kids," Couch said. "This is not about disliking charter schools. We also have people who pay taxes, and those people trust us to make decisions to their benefit."

Prior to the Monday board meeting, Duval County had three options: to join the lawsuit, decline litigation or to postpone.

Smith Juarez said she felt board members had not exhausted all other methods available to them, including continuing negotiations.

Other board members felt the time to act is now. After a certain time, Duval County would no longer have the option to join.

The biggest legal target is the new law's so-called "schools of hope" measure, which sets aside more than $100 million to create charter schools in areas near D- or F-rated public schools. …

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