The Phoenix Flyer

Will controversial education amendment get kicked off the ballot? An answer is coming soon.

By: - July 27, 2018 6:00 am

A Leon County circuit court judge is expected to rule Aug. 17 on whether a controversial education amendment should get kicked off the Nov. 6 ballot.

But the stakes are so high that the case likely won’t end that day.

“I anticipate that this case will ultimately be decided by the Florida Supreme Court,” said Ronald Meyer, an attorney representing the League of Women Voters of Florida and its top officials who filed suit over Amendment 8.

The Constitutional language in the measure represents a legal, political and philosophical battle over who can or can’t control public schools in Florida and what those schools will look like.

Competition — and friction — has been mounting between traditional public schools and charter schools that are public but run by private groups and designed to be free from bureaucracy.

The official summary for Amendment 8 “permits the state to operate, control and supervise public schools not established by the school board.” That suggests that the state, rather than local boards, could approve and monitor charter schools.

Opponents say the language is misleading and ambiguous, and would usurp local authority over public charter schools.  Proponents say it’s likely that the amendment – if it stays on the ballot and is approved – would open the door for even more charters.

Florida already has one of the largest charter school movements in the country, with tens of thousands of Florida students flocking to charters and bypassing traditional public schools.

The Republican Party of Florida, investment companies, education groups and fans of charter schools have so far contributed $192,000 to 8isGreat.org, a political committee pushing to approve Amendment 8.

Division of Elections records show that another political committee called Term Limit Florida was formed earlier this month and is affiliated with 8isGreat.

Shawn Frost, the chairman of Term Limit Florida, serves on the local school board in Indian River County schools and manages a policy and strategy company, state records show. That company has received money from 8isGreat, mostly for campaign consulting, campaign finance records show.

 

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.

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