Major Issues of Concern with HB 7069
1. Local control
- The law unconstitutionally infringes upon the duties and responsibilities of local school boards to “operate, control, and supervise” public education in their districts.
- This not only trespasses upon the School Board, but also works against the voters of Pinellas County, who elected School Board members to make all decisions regarding public education in Pinellas County.
- School boards enjoy “Home Rule” authority that embodies local control and allows them to exercise any power that is not otherwise expressly prohibited by the Constitution of general law – HB 7069 improperly treads upon this long-standing principle of local control.
2. Schools of Hope
- This scheme unconstitutionally removes the ability to authorize new charter schools from local school boards – the Pinellas County School Board was successful in its 2008 litigation, along with other districts, to fight against this concept, and we need to challenge it again today.
- Further, the law mandates the use of a DOE-written agreement that cannot be negotiated by the local school district, also infringing upon the ability of a school board to “operate, control, and supervise” all public schools, including charter schools, in its district.
- Other deficiencies exist, as well, including the lack of required teacher certification at these schools.
3. Capital Outlay Millage – Required Sharing with Charter Schools
- Requires sharing discretionary local millage without any showing of need.
- The assets purchased or funded with this millage may not need to be returned to the school district if the school closes.
- Unfairly treats districts like Pinellas County Schools who have exercised fiscal restraint by allowing districts with large debt to first deduct that debt before calculating how much must be provided to charter schools.
- Infringes upon the right of school boards to levy and collect taxes for their own unique purposes – the law requires school board to essentially levy and collect taxes for a private entity.
4. Charter school standard contract and LEA status
- Removes the ability of local school boards to negotiate locally-appropriate charter contracts that provide accountability to elected school board members.
- Neutralizes local school boards and district officials in the “operation, control, and supervision” of public education in local districts.
- Creates a secondary system of public education in violation of the Constitution’s mandate of a “uniform” system of public education in the state.
- LEA status for charter schools also removes public accountability and transparency for the expenditure of public dollars.
5. Title I
- Unconstitutionally restricts local school districts' use of Title I funds.
- These restrictions remove local decision-making authority by officials who are in the best postion to determine, in their respective counties, the most effective and efficient use of federal funds provided to address the educational needs of low-income student, and places those decisions in Tallahassee.
6. Turnaround Provisions
- Limits the options by school districts to implement innovative school turnaround strategies.
- Removes the Constitutional power and responsibility of local school boards to operate, control, and supervise all public schools in their districts.
7. Fiscal concerns
- This harms Pinellas County Schools financially.
- The capital outlay issue alone amounts to over 5 Million Dollars per year.
- Other provisions will cost the district in reduced revenue.
8. General concerns/concepts
- Litigation is a last resort – we have tried all other avenues, from lobbying during session, to asking the Govr. for a veto, to working recently with legislators on a solution – but, nothing has convinced the decision-makers of the urgency of the public policy and legal issues involved. So, this step is necessary.
- The process of adoption of HB 7069 was flawed. It was a 274-page bill that amended or created about 70 statutes, some of which did not pass through the committee approval process. It was introduced late on a Friday before the required 3-day budget cooling off period – this did not allow for review or debate in the Legislature.
- Parental choice is not bad – we embrace it and have received a national award recognizing our efforts toward that end. However, there are ways to offer choice without violating the law. We will continue to be a leader in choice programs and hold ourselves and our programs accountable under law and policy, but by the same token, we also need to hold the state accountable under the law. This action is intended to do just that.
Ultimately, we must ask ourselves whether HB 7069 violates state and/or Constitutional law. We find that it does. Therefore, as Constitutional Officers, we have a duty to act. Our Oath of Office required that we “support, protect, and defend the Constitution…of the State of Florida” – our action to join this lawsuit provides this support, protection, and defense against this unconstitutional and overreaching intrusion into local public education governance.