Florida Districts Will Have Their Day in Court

Last Updated: September 26, 2012

This article appeared in the September 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

Editor's note: Links are free and current at time of posting, but may require registration or expire over time.

The Florida Supreme Court has found that a group of parents, students, and education advocacy groups can sue the state for failing to fund schools properly. Plaintiffs in the case were successful at both the trial and appeal court levels at overcoming the state’s motions to dismiss the case. But, following the appeals court victory, defendants made another unsuccessful attempt to have the case dismissed by the state’s highest court.

The state had argued that the court had no role in issues of school funding and education policy.

But Florida has one of the strongest state constitutional education clauses. It calls education the state’s “paramount duty” and requires a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education.

The state adopted that clause following the 1996 dismissal of the last school finance adequacy suit in Florida. The trial judge had cited those efforts in her ruling, saying that the state argument that there can be no legal challenge would "render the citizens' vote to create a new education article as meaningless."

The current case, Citizens for Strong Schools vs. Florida, was first filed in 2009. It alleges that the reduced share of school funding forced districts to cut programs and forego hiring qualified teachers. It also cites high rates of fighting, drug abuse, and suspension and expulsions in public schools as violations of the “safe and secure” constitutional language and claims a lack of funding for student supports and staffing are partly to blame.

Editor’s note: see previous RSFN coverage here.

Read more:

Local coverage:

Read more from the September 2012 Rural Policy Matters.