Lawsuit Challenging Florida Education System Is Dismissed

Published July 12, 2016

A Florida county judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging multiple elements of the state’s education system, including Florida’s scholarship program for children with disabilities, tax-credit scholarships, and the state’s charter school program.

A group of activists led by the Southern Legal Counsel first filed the lawsuit in 2009. In Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education, the plaintiffs alleged the state failed “to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders,” as dictated by the state’s constitution.

During the four-week court trial, Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds analyzed the state’s policies on private school vouchers, standardized testing, educational funding, educational attainment, and graduation. In late May, Reynolds dismissed the case, writing in his opinion, “The weight of the evidence shows that the state has made education a top priority both in terms of implementation of research-based education policies and reforms, as well as education funding.”

Citizens for Strong Schools announced it plans to appeal the judge’s decision to reject the case.  

Victory for School Choice

More than 100,000 students are enrolled in Florida’s school choice programs, which include the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, and the Gardiner Scholarship Program, which offers limited education savings accounts.

William Mattox, director of the James Madison Institute’s J. Stanley Marshall Center for Educational Options, says Florida students have benefitted greatly from the programs Citizens for Strong Schools is challenging in this case.

“Over the last quarter-century, student performance in Florida has improved dramatically, thanks to a number of innovative education reforms, including many which required little or no increases in per-pupil spending,” Mattox said. “While we still have work to do to improve education in our state, Floridians have reason to be proud of what has been accomplished.”

‘A Victory for Students’

Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, says the legal decision will favor the state’s neediest children.

“Above all else, it’s a victory for students,” Levesque said. “Data shows Florida students are making significant progress, and the greatest beneficiaries of the state’s education policies are our most disadvantaged students.

 “Measurement, transparency, accountability, and parental choice ensure we have a high-quality and efficient education system,” Levesque said.

Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado