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State Wins Lawsuit Challenging School Funding

The Leon County School Board discusses the budget at its meeting today.

A challenge to the way Florida funds its public schools has been tossed out by a circuit judge. The lawsuit was brought by the group Citizens for Strong Schools. It alleged state leaders failed to provide adequate funding for a high quality education under Florida’s constitution.

In his ruling, circuit Judge George Reynolds writes the plaintiffs did not prove a relationship between additional funding and improved student outcomes. And he also cited data from the state showing students have made progress despite low funding levels.

"Plaintiffs, however, have not met their burden of proving a causal relationship between the level of resources available to schools in Florida and student outcomes. Indeed, as described below, the weight of the evidence presented on that issue establishes a lack of any causal relationship between additional financial resources and improved student outcomes."   -Judge George Reynolds

Attorney Jodi Siegal is the executive director of Southern Legal Counsel represents Citizens for Strong Schools.

“There’s over a million students who aren’t reading on grade level. And we thought it was clear from the testimony what they needed in terms of extra resources," she said. "And he actually made findings regarding that, but concluded that he couldn’t do anything about it.” 

Siegal says the group will appeal.

Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisfulli praised the ruling. They, along with Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and the Florida Board of Education were named as defendants.

The lawsuit was broad, touching on everything from school funding, to standards, and even the state's corpoate tax scholarship program--itself a part of a separate lawsuit.

“I am hopeful that today’s ruling will cause other groups to re-evaluate their attempts to deprive tens of thousands of students with unique abilities and students from low-income families of the educational opportunities their parents have selected," said Gardiner in a statement.