Florida’s marquee public education trial, Citizens for Strong Schools, filed in 2009, begins today. Thanks to the herculean pro bono efforts of the Southern Legal Counsel, this is truly a citizen-driven lawsuit. Just about every “education reform” policy legislators have imposed on our children and teachers through Florida’s A-F Accountability scheme is on the table.
Fund Education Now is a plaintiff in the case along with, Citizens for Strong Schools and several individuals. The journey to this day has been long. Fund Education Now came to be in 2009 in response to what former Orange County School Superintendent Ron Blocker called “criminal and catastrophic” cuts to public education. What drove us was the absolute lack of answers from the state legislature as to why they were deliberately de-funding public education while spending billions to grow a high stakes testing juggernaut and diverting money to separate, unequal and often privately held “choice options.”
All of this was happening despite the fact that the Florida Constitution was amended in 1998 with the approval of over 70% of the voters, giving the Florida Legislature specific instructions regarding public education funding:
Article IX, section 1 of the Florida Constitution states
(a) The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools…
It’s been clear for a long time that nothing short of legal action was needed to make a difference. A powerful combination of state legislators, PACs, business chambers, former politicians, industry and foundation lobbyists joined together to pass one “bold reform” after another, session after session with the net effect of deeply wounding teachers, students and public schools. Parents responded by calling, writing and speaking to legislators. Those early and sustained actions turned the conversation from “education reform” as a fait accompli to a strong push-back over validity, intent and the profit motive behind so many of these laws.
The State of Florida fought hard to keep this trial from ever taking place. It represents a significant struggle to finally have an unvarnished discussion to determine whether the state of Florida is fulfilling its constitutional duty to the 2.8 million children enrolled in public schools.
Make sure to watch this important case live-streaming daily on the Florida Channel for the next five weeks. The state Supreme Court ruled that the Citizens for Strong Schools case is a “matter of extreme public importance” that should be heard in court. We couldn’t agree more.
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