The Florida Constitution requires the state to provide “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools” — but is that general standard something that can be measured?
That’s what an appeals court in Tallahassee will decide in the latest round of a long-standing battle over whether the Legislature, state Board of Education and the Florida Department of Education are fulfilling their constitutional obligations for 2.8 million children in the state’s public schools.
After a five-week trial last year, a Leon County Circuit Court judge tossed out the lawsuit that was filed in 2009. While the plaintiffs — led by two advocacy organizations, Citizens for Strong Schools and Fund Education Now — argued the state was failing to meet its constitutional duty, Judge George S. Reynolds III found they hadn’t met the burden to prove that was the case.
Now the First District Court of Appeal will decide whether Reynolds erred in that ruling. Central to that decision is whether the constitutional standard — adopted by voters in the late 1990s — is one that can be definitively measured.
Focused on that theme, the three-judge appeals panel peppered attorneys for the state and for the plaintiffs with questions during an hourlong hearing Tuesday.