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Duval,12 Other Florida School Districts Allege ‘Schools Of Hope’ Law Unconstitutional In Suit

The Duval County School District is one of 13 counties that jointly filed a lawsuit in Leon County Monday, against the state regarding a new education law.

The nearly 300-page law, passed as House Bill 7069, went into effect July 1. The districts are hoping the courts will rule it unconstitutional.

The bill is known for its “Schools of Hope” provision, which speeds up the closures of failing neighborhood schools and financially incentivizes charter schools to open in those areas. The law has many other provisions, like requiring districts to share tax revenue with charters for building and maintenance projects.

Alachua, Bay, Broward, Clay, Duval, Hamilton, Lee, Orange, Pinellas, Polk St. Lucie, Volusia and Wakulla counties are all named as plaintiffs.

The complaint points to several reasons the law may be unconstitutional. The counties are  asserting that it infringes on the districts’ right to operate, control and supervise all public schools, as laid out in the Florida Constitution.

That’s in part because the law takes away districts’ ability to negotiate charter school contracts, instead requiring a standard state contract. Charter schools are public, but privately managed.

It also argues against the law allowing “Schools of Hope” to be a local education agency. The complaint contends that creates a separate parallel system of schools which might violate the constitutional guarantee of “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high-quality system of free public schools.”

In total, the complaint argues six causes of action. The plaintiffs are also requesting expedited consideration.

The Duval County School Board had also voted to cap legal costs at $25,000, unless it approves more later on. The board has not yet been billed.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.

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