Florida and National Charter School Advocates Hail Judge’s Decision to Throw Out Lawsuit Against New Funding Rules

Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS) Calls the Decision a “Game Changer”

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Charter school advocates in Florida and around the nation today hailed a ruling by Leon County Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper, who yesterday threw out a legal challenge filed by 14 Florida school boards. Judge Cooper issued a summary judgment in the lawsuit that challenged new school funding and other rules passed during the 2017 session of the Florida Legislature and signed into law last June by Florida Governor Rick Scott.

In rejecting all six counts of the lawsuit, Judge Cooper ruled the changes to Florida’s education laws contained in HB7069 do not violate the Florida Constitution. His immediate ruling followed a 5-hour hearing in Leon County Circuit Court and means the case is not likely to proceed to trial, unless the school boards opt to appeal the decision and their possible appeal is somehow successful.

The case has attracted national attention in the education industry and national charter school leaders were quick to react to the news. Immediately following the ruling, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools issued a press release that stated, “The Court…ruled in favor of parents, students and public charter school leaders in the state of Florida who have been defending their right to equitable funding.”

Renita Thukral of the National Charter School Legal Action Fund said, “Everyone around the country has been watching this case and we are pleased to see the Court ruled to uphold the legislature’s decision and protect funding for public charter schools and the students they serve.”

Robert Haag, President of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS), with a membership of 75 percent of Florida’s charter schools, said the decision by Judge Cooper was a “game changer” in the ongoing struggle to ensure equitable funding for Florida’s charter school students.

“The judge’s decision means the new funding rules and other changes to Florida’s education law will require school boards to be fair and share a portion of their capital improvement dollars with charter schools in their districts,” said Haag. “We encourage our school board partners to accept the judge’s ruling and avoid the costly and time-consuming appeal process. It’s time to move forward together, in the best interest of our students.”

Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran, who was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with the Florida Board of Education and the Florida Department of Education and others, issued a statement that noted, “Education dollars belong in the classroom not in the courtroom. (The) ruling is a great day for all parents, all students and all teachers. It is our hope that school districts will drop these wasteful foolish challenges and work with us to implement transformational policies.”

Plaintiffs alleged in their lawsuit that HB7069 took away some of the constitutional powers to make decisions about public schools and undermined local control of public schools. In addition to capital project funding changes, the new law established the Schools of Hope system for charter schools and set it up beyond the control of Florida school districts.

Yesterday’s ruling was not unexpected, as Judge Cooper had telegraphed some of his thinking when in late January he ruled against a motion for a temporary injunction in the case and also denied the school boards’ request to deposit funds with the court instead of paying them to charter schools in the affected Florida counties.

At that time, Judge Cooper said the school boards had failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success in prosecuting the case, although he also warned the parties that his ruling to deny the injunction should not be seen as an indication of his future rulings.

About the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools

The Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS) is the leading charter school membership association in the state, with a membership of nearly 75 percent of all operating charter schools. Since its inception in 1999, FCPCS has been dedicated to creating a national model of high quality, accredited public charter schools that are student-centered and performance-driven. FCPCS provides a wide array of technical support, mentoring, training, networking, and purchasing services to its membership, as well as serving as an advocate for all Florida public charter schools.