TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Tallahassee appeals court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the 'Schools of Hope' charter school expansion law passed two years ago by the Republican-controlled Florida legislature.
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The law allows privately-run charter schools to be built with taxpayer funds in areas served by underperforming traditional public schools. It's a scheme critics say creates a non-uniform system of education by diverting dollars from the traditional schools.
The lawsuit goes a step further, alleging local school boards are being stripped of their constitutional authority to make spending decisions.
"Instead of having that pot of money where you can look holistically at the entire district and decide how to spend that money, your hands are tied by this particular provision. That runs afoul of the Constitution," Steve Brannock, an attorney for a coalition of school boards, told a three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal Tuesday morning.
But lawyers for the state argued that because traditional public school students are able to attend charters, they'll continue to be beneficiaries of public education dollars, regardless of where those dollars are spent. Additionally, school boards still have the power to shut down charter schools that fail to meet state standards.
The appeals court is expected to issue a ruling in the next several weeks. The suit could ultimately come before the Florida Supreme Court.