The Broward County (Fla.) School Board has voted to sue the state of Florida over a new law that requires public school districts to share property tax revenue with charter schools and relinquishes their authority to approve charter applications.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Broward is the first school system to take action, but other districts may join the legal challenge. (See Manatee County district weighing legal options regarding charter school law and Palm Beach County school board to consider suing over charter-friendly bill.)
Broward officials contend that several components of the law are unconstitutional. The district believes the law improperly restricts the district’s right to “operate, control and supervise” all schools. The law's property-tax sharing measure violates the state constitution, Broward asserts, because charters are not permitted to collect property taxes.
The law, signed last month by Gov. Rick Scott, includes provisions such as recess requirements and additional funding for scholarships for children with disabilities. It also steers millions of dollars to charter school operators by making districts share property tax revenue and by setting up a fund for a program called “Schools of Hope.”
Under the law, $140 million has been earmarked for charter operators to establish campuses in areas where elementary and middle schools have been rated D or F for at least three years in a row.
Those charters wouldn’t have to adhere to the same rules that district schools do, such as class size and teacher certification rules.
Under the law, the Broward district would lose at least $100 million in capital funds over the next five years and possibly owe tens of millions more in debt service because bond ratings are likely to get downgraded, staff members told the board.
Proponents of the law have hailed its focus on school choice, which they believe gives parents a greater opportunity to choose the best learning environments for their children.