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State Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Long-Standing Legal Battle Over Public Education Standards

MGN Online

The Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday in a nine-year-old case on K-12 education standards.

The lawsuit claims the State has not carried out the obligations laid out in its constitution. Attorney Jodi Siegel represents Citizens for Strong Schools.

“From the trial court we’re seeking a declaration that the state of the education system, the public education system – the state has not complied with its constitutional duty in order to provide for a ‘uniform, efficient and high-quality system’ of public education,” Siegel said.

The suit also takes aim at the Board of Education’s use of public funding for charter schools and voucher programs. Siegel’s client wants the case to return to the trial court. But a judge there has previously declined to make a ruling, questioning whether the Constitutional wording is even an issue to be settled by the court.

Siegel laid out for State Justices what recourse her client is seeking.

“We are not asking for specific appropriations, we’re not asking for a specific enactment, we are asking for a declaration, and then the next step would be the state would come back with a remedial plan and comply with the declaration,” Siegel said.

Rocco Testani, an attorney representing the State Board, says the plaintiff didn’t argue the case well enough to convince the trial court the constitutional language isn’t subjective.

“When you look at, not only their complaint but the evidence they presented and the questions the trial court repeatedly asked of them – What are you asking me to do? How do I know the system isn’t a high quality system? What is the standard by which we are supposed to use to measure that – and they were all over the map,” Testani said.

Testani says the trial court concluded the level of resources available to school districts is not related to performance disparities. The State Supreme Court has not indicated when it will publish a finding in the case.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.