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Florida Board of Education Discusses Lawsuits and Budgets at Orlando Meeting

Oct 09, 2012 | WMFE - The Florida Board of Education wrapped up two days of meetings in Orlando Tuesday with a discussion about a court case that could have a major impact on the state's school system. The board is one of the defendants named in the case.

A North Florida non-profit, non-partisan group called Citizens for Strong Schools is suing the state Board of Education along with Florida House and Senate leaders. Those lawmakers are accused of violating the state's constitution by failing to provide an adequate education to Florida's students.

Board of Education attorney Judy Bone reminded members today that the state Supreme Court refused to hear arguments to dismiss the case, meaning it has been sent back to the original Leon County judge.

“We know that no matter who wins, there will be an appeal and we expect it will go to the Supreme Court,” Bone said. “It will take years to resolve and the potential for these sort of suits, why they are so harmful is, in essence, if the plaintiffs win then a certain number of plaintiffs and the court dictates educational policy. And that’s why it’s so damaging.”

In court filings, Citizens for Strong Schools is asking the judge to force the Board of Education to come up with a plan to fix the state’s school system that emphasizes more funding, and to monitor the plan’s implementation.

The board also said it will seek a $643 million, or 4.4 percent, spending increase next year for Florida's public schools and colleges. Additionally, it approved a new five-year strategic plan that envisions minority students narrowing what members call an achievement gap with white students.

The panel, though, delayed a decision on whether to appeal a judge's ruling that would permit in-state tuition rates to be paid by U.S.-born Florida residents who are children of illegal immigrants. A judge last month in Miami ruled that public colleges and universities cannot charge students higher out-of-state tuition simply because their parents are illegal immigrants. The board deferred action because the judge has not yet issued a final written order.


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