Our lawsuit

In February 2008, FundEducationNow.org was formed in response to the looming catastrophe facing public education. In 1998, 70% of the citizens of Florida voted to approve the constitutional revision that states clearly that the education of our children: is a fundamental value, is a paramount duty of the state government, and must be high quality. These are constitutional promises.

Lawmakers take their first oath to us, the people and our voice, the constitution:

Official Oath taken by all Legislators:

I do solemnly swear that I will support, protect, and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States and of the State of Florida; that I am duly qualified to hold office under the Constitution of the State, and that I will well and faithfully perform the duties of _______(the office).

Attorneys Jon Mills, the late Thom Rumberger, and Neil Chonin and Jodie Seigel of the non-profit law firm, Southern Legal Counsel, filed the suit on November 18, 2009, in the Leon County Circuit Court. The complaint alleges that the State Legislature is not upholding its obligation as mandated by the people and written in the Florida State Constitution to adequately fund a high quality system of public schools. Our fellow plaintiffs are advocates and citizen groups representing millions of voters who expect our elected officials to deliver on their solemn promise to the people.

As one of the authors of the 1998 revision of Article IX, Jon Mills, who is a former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and Dean of the University Of Florida Law School and current law professor, is keenly aware of the massive economic and social loss that our state faces as a result of its habitual failure to make public education a priority.

On August 27, 2010, Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford denied the State of Florida’s Motion to Dismiss and ruled that the plaintiffs in this case have standing. The state appealed the Denied Motion to Dismiss by filing an Extraordinary Writ of Prohibition which argues that the courts have no authority to rule on the actions of the legislature. The hearing on this latest action took place on June 30, 2011.

In November 2011, the First District Court of Appeals said “no” to Florida politicians. In a rare move, the entire panel of 15 judges voted 8/7 to deny the writ of prohibition and certify the suit as a “question of public importance,” sending it directly to the Florida Supreme Court.

Attorneys representing Senate President Mike Haridopolous, House Speaker Dean Cannon and the state used an obscure writ to try to stop the suit and deny the courts the right to consider whether the Florida Legislature meets its “paramount duty” to the people as described in Article IX, section 1 of the state constitution.

On September 11, 2012, the Florida Supreme Court “determined that it should decline to exercise jurisdiction as to the Certified Great Public Importance and that it should decline to accept jurisdiction as to the Express and Direct Conflict of Decisions, it is ordered that the Petition for Review is denied. No Motion for Rehearing will be entertained by the Court.”

Attorneys for the State of Florida believe that funding Florida public education is merely a “political matter.” The 2012 Florida Supreme Court decision sends the lawsuit back to the trial court and solidly rejects the state’s move to silence the voice of the people. This action brings hope to every classroom in Florida. This decision says that the court believes there should be a trial, the people should present evidence and courts should decide whether Florida public education fails the high-quality test. It says this case is not just about funding:

DOES ARTICLE IX, SECTION 1(A), FLORIDA CONSTITUTION, SET FORTH JUDICIALLY ASCERTAINABLE STANDARDS THAT CAN BE USED TO DETERMINE THE ADEQUACY, EFFICIENCY, SAFETY, SECURITY, AND HIGH QUALITY OF PUBLIC EDUCATION ON A STATEWIDE BASIS, SO AS TO PERMIT A COURT TO DECIDE CLAIMS FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT (AND SUPPLEMENTAL RELIEF) ALLEGING NONCOMPLIANCE WITH ARTICLE IX, SECTION 1(A) OF THE FLORIDA CONSTITUTION?

The court’s action will force an unvarnished discussion about the truth behind Florida’s education “reforms.”

March 2016: Following seven years, Citizens v. State of Florida was heard in a trial held in the Second Judicial Circuit Court Hearing, Tallahassee Florida, Judge George S. Reynolds III, presiding.
Plaintiffs: Citizens for Strong Schools; Fund Education Now; Eunice Barnum; Janiya Williams; Jacque Williams; Sheila Andrews; Rose Nogueras; and Alfredo Nogureras
Plaintiffs Attorneys: Southern Legal Counsel: Neil Chonin, Esquire and Jodi Seigel, Esquire
Defendents: Florida State Board of Education, Don Gaetz, in his official capacity as the Florida Senate President; Will Weatherford, in his official capacity as the Florida Speaker of the House and Pam Stewart, in her official capacity as Florida Commissioner of Education
Defendent’s Attorneys: Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, LLP: Rocco E. Testani, Esquire; Attorney General’s Office -Complex Litigation, Lisa M. Raleigh, Esquire

Judge Reynolds is expected to rule by the end of June 2016. Look for updates on this page.

We do not blame any single party, person or group. This problem is the result of years of neglect. It is everyone’s fault. It is everyone’s duty to help fix it. Sometimes, citizens must rely on the courts to make government work.

Love for our children has brought us here. They are not a political “wedge issue.” They are the future of Florida.

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