The Florida Supreme Court on Friday tossed the proposed constitutional amendment dealing with schools off of the November ballot, agreeing with the lower court decision that the proposal’s intentions toward charter schools was badly worded.
As a result of the Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision Friday, Revision 8, which covers several education matters, will not be presented to voters on the Nov. 6 statewide ballot.
The proposed Florida Constitution amendment was serving several purposes bundled together earlier this year by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. The problematic matter had to do with the creation of a new category of public schools not controlled by local school boards – essentially state-supervised charter schools. In addition, Revision 8 also would have set term limits on school board members statewide, and would have required civics education in all schools.
Because the various matters were bundled together in one proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution, none of those things will be presented to voters in November, because of the wording dealing with the new category of schools.
The League of Women Voters of Florida went to court to challenge this amendment’s language, alleging that it hid the amendment’s true purpose.
The league won.
“We’re really pleased that the Florida Supreme Court has agreed with the league on this,” League President Patricia Brigham said Friday afternoon. “It really shows the backers of this on the CRC went to great lengths to hide the ball, because they realized that Floridians would never knowingly forfeit their right their local control over local public schools.”
Backers, represented by the campaign committee 8isGreat.org, decried the ruling.
“Voters deserved to have a say in whether to allow the monopoly over schools to continue, but activist judges have decided otherwise,” Erika Donalds, a Collier County School Board member and the main sponsor of Amendment 8 on the CRC, said in a statement released by 8isGreat.org Friday afternoon.
The league had challenged the amendment in Circuit Court in Leon County, contending that the bundled language of Revision 8 not only hid the intention of creating state-monitored charter schools outside of local school districts’ control, but bundled that with the far more popular idea, school board member term limits, to get it past voters. Critics charged the amendment was “sugar-coated.”
Earlier drafts of the CRC proposal specifically talked about state-supervised charter schools. However, the final version of the revision offered as a constitutional amendment didn’t use the words “charter schools” at all. Instead the language would have rewritten the duties of the local school boards to open the door to schools not “established” by the school board, and therefore outside of the school board’s purview.
On Aug. 20, 2nd Judicial Circuit Judge John Cooper agreed with the league’s objections and issued a summary judgment to toss the amendment from the ballot. He wrote, “the ballot summary for Revision 8 clearly and conclusively fails to adequately inform the voter of the chief purposes and effects of the revision, and is affirmatively misleading.”
On Friday the Supreme Court upheld Cooper, with a ruling backed by Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince, and Jorge Labarga. Justices Charles Canady, Ricky Polston, and Alan Lawson dessented.