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Sparks Fly over Education Amendment in State Supreme Court

July 27, 2018 - 1:15pm

One group, describing itself as the “framers” of an education constitutional amendment, was largely appointed by former Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles. Another group was appointed by 1990s-era Republican legislative leaders.

But two decades after the groups served together on the 1997-1998 Florida Constitution Revision Commission, they are clashing in the state Supreme Court.

The root of the clash is an amendment that the Constitution Revision Commission placed on the 1998 ballot that spelled out a duty for the state to provide a high-quality system of public schools. The Florida Supreme Court is now considering a case about whether the state has properly carried out the amendment --- and the two factions of the long-adjourned Constitution Revision Commission have injected themselves into the case on opposite sides.

The latest move came Thursday when the group of six Republican appointees asked for permission to file a friend-of-the court brief that would oppose a stance that the 10 “framers” took in a brief early this month. The Supreme Court on Friday granted permission for the additional brief.

The groups include movers and shakers of 1990s-era Florida politics. Among the framers’ group are former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, former Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan and former House Speaker Jon Mills. Among the opposing group are former Senate President and Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings and former Senate President Jim Scott.

The underlying lawsuit at the Supreme Court involves a voter-approved 1998 constitutional amendment that said it is a "paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders." The amendment fleshed that out, in part, by saying adequate provision will be made for a "uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system" of public schools. 

Critics of the education system, including an organization known as Citizens for Strong Schools, have waged a legal battle in recent years arguing that the state has not done enough to meet the requirements of the amendment.

But a Leon County circuit judge and the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled against the plaintiffs. The appeals court said, in part, that the issues in the case “raise political questions not subject to judicial review, because the relevant constitutional text does not contain judicially discoverable standards by which a court can decide whether the state has complied.”

The plaintiffs then appealed to the Supreme Court, which has agreed to take up the case.

The framers’ group --- which also includes 1997-1998 commission members Martha Barnett, Robert Brochin, Ellen Freidin, Clay Henderson, Robert Nabors, H.T. Smith and Stephen Zack --- took the unusual step of seeking permission from the Supreme Court to file a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the plaintiffs. That brief, filed July 2, disputed the 1st District Court of Appeal’s conclusion that judges should not resolve the issues about the education system.

“To find that there are no judicially manageable standards is to find (the constitutional amendment’s) text and its intent meaningless and unenforceable,” the framers’ brief said. “Under that interpretation a future legislature could appropriate one dollar for public education or allow patently unsafe public schools and the courts could do nothing.”

But in a filing Thursday seeking permission from the Supreme Court to file the counter brief, the six-member group --- which also includes 1998 commission members Carlos Alfonso, Chris Corr, Valerie Evans and Paul Hawkes --- backed the 1st District Court of Appeal ruling.

Also, the group argued that the Supreme Court should not take into consideration of the views of individual members of the 37-member commission, which meets every 20 years to suggest changes to the Constitution.

“To present evidence now as to the CRC's intentions in 1998 through some, but not all, CRC members would not reflect the views of the entire 37-member CRC,” the filing said. “Therefore, (the six) members have interest in this appeal to emphasize that their individual views, and views of other members of the CRC, are not probative of the meaning of the Florida Constitution and should not be used in determining whether (the education constitutional amendment) sets forth justiciable standards.”


I have previously criticizesd Wayne LaPierre and the NRA in previous comments on this site. Just testing whether Sunshine State News is still censoring criticisms of the NRA and Wayne Lapirre on this site. It seems a little late now that the world press has seen photos of LaPierre and Russian spy or agent Maria Butina arm.

What does this have to do with the education constitutional amendment issue?

i did not finish my comment. Wayne LaPierre, executive VP of the National Rifle Association, has appeared in photos around the world where he is arm in arm with Russian spy or agent who now sits in a jail cell in Virginia.

What's your point? That the National Rifle Association or LaPierre is an agent of the Russian Federation? Clearly we have a growing list of mindless idiots walking our streets. That said, Jeff, you must be a product of Florida public schools (which I add to merely make this post somewhat relevant to the story under which it appears).

If the point in 1998 was to improve the effectiveness of Florida's schools ... 20 years later ... it's failed! There are some individual notable exceptions around the state but, by and large, the effectiveness of Florida's public school system has declined over the past 20 years ... and the 'charter school' malarkey is nothing but a cop-out.

I have the bulletin Independent Voices for Better Education sent out warning people it was a wolf in sheep's clothing. But they didn't listen. So here we are now.

Matt Apthorp WPTV reported that 920 teachers were fired just this summer for failing the Fl TCE Guess what? A British/ Rothshikd corporation, Pearson VUE, administers that test and its a SCAM So fire all tour teachers. Hmm... sounds line a good strategy, if you are the Queen and want to reclaim your previously held colonies.!!

Our teachers are one of our most precious sacred resources. Brian Foerster say the way of conquest is to destroy shared beliefs (our teachers)

A very large percentage of our teachers are virtually incompetent and just marking time to retirement,..a large percentage of "these" don't even like children...(ask your own kids: they KNOW who the fakers are).

How did such an idiotic amendment ever get passed? "The root of the clash is an amendment that the Constitution Revision Commission placed on the 1998 ballot that spelled out a duty for the state to provide a high-quality system of public schools." It is very subjective, who decides what a high quality system is? If anything should be done, they should go after those idiots wrote this amendment.

The idiots who voted for it because it was feel good.

How about we vote again to repeal this awful legislation?

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