Today's news -- August 10, 2017




Miami-Dade agrees to join suit over HB 7069 *

Miami-Dade joined a growing number of school districts challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s sweeping new education law. At a School Board meeting Wednesday, board members voted 8-1 to join litigation seeking to overturn portions of a bill some critics say was designed to boost the fortunes of the politically powerful charter school industry. One provision forces school districts to share with charter schools local tax dollars earmarked for school construction and maintenance and others limit the board’s authority over charter schools. “We’ve got to have the courage to do what is right,” said Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, a member of the board that oversees the state’s largest public school system. “We’ve got to do the right thing and the right thing would be to have courage to fight for the children who cannot fight for themselves.” Miami-Dade is one of seven districts to pledge to join a lawsuit so far -- but none has yet actually filed one to challenge what’s known as House Bill 7069. In early July, Broward County schools became the first, followed by St. Lucie, Volusia, Lee, and Bay school districts. Palm Beach also voted to authorize joining a suit Wednesday. In total, including a $30,000 commitment from Miami-Dade, the districts have set aside just $150,000 for a potential legal challenge. That’s a modest amount for what could be a major political and legal battle, pitting the authority of local school districts against the power of Florida lawmakers to set education policy. While the board approved a potential suit, it also sent a signal that Miami-Dade would prefer not taking legal action. Members agreed to send a letter asking state leaders for a special legislative session to discuss the law’s impacts on school boards before joining any formal legal challenge. Other counties also may soon join the opposition. At least 10 additional districts are still considering a lawsuit, according to a query by the Herald/Times of the state’s 67 school districts in late July. It’s unclear who would file the suit, although Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho indicated at Wednesday’s meeting that the districts were leaning toward agreeing on a single lawsuit and filing jointly. The suit is the latest development in a bitter fight over the education law, which has sparked controversy since it was passed during the final days of the 2017 legislative session. School administrators, teachers’ unions and parent groups unsuccessfully urged Gov. Rick Scott to veto the bill, arguing that many of the provisions favored charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools. Sen. Gary Farmer, a Democrat from Lighthouse Point who has been a vocal critic of the education law, applauded the efforts of the school districts that have voted to sue. “I’m very pleased that so many districts have signed on,” Farmer said. “The stakes couldn’t be higher. I really believe that if 7069 remains law in the state of Florida, it is the precursor to the demise of public education as we know it and it’s the first step to full privatization, which I think is their ultimate goal.” (UTD mentioned)

Palm Beach joins suit over HB 7069 *

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 OK’d 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 said six others are officially on board: Broward, Miami-Dade, St. Lucie, Volusia, Lee and Bay counties. Miami-Dade’s school board also voted Wednesday to join the planned legal action.


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