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School Board to study joining lawsuit against Legislature

Posted on Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 6:00 am

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
The Osceola County School Board’s legal counsel will study whether the district should join other districts in suing the state Legislature over its most recent school-funding bill.
Apryle Jackson, president of Osceola County’s teacher’s union, asked the School Board at its most recent meeting to support the lawsuit, started by Broward County and joined by four others, against House Bill 7069. Among its many, many provisions, it provided the same $50 million to the state’s 4,200 public schools as its 620 charter schools, including “Schools of Hope” which subsidizes new

Photo/Osceola County School District
The Osceola County School Board, pictured with Superintendent Debra Pace, center, has been asked to join other school districts in a lawsuit against the state Legislature over the recent school-funding bill.

charter schools to open near public schools earning three straight D or F grades.
Lee, St. Lucie, and Volusia Counties have voted to get on board, and have reportedly began pooling money for litigation and representation. According to other reports from around the state, nearly a dozen other counties, including Orange, have discussed joining as well. Sarasota County has refused to join in.
“As written, this bill adversely affects on our districts, especially financially, Jackson said. “When someone’s making money off our tax money and we must deny our students necessities, our association has a problem with that. If you would look at the lawsuit and consider passing the request, I think it would be beneficial to all students in the state. We need to make a stand as a group so we don’t continue to have our funds cut.”
School Board Attorney Frank Kruppenbacher said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit yet, but would report back in time for next week’s School Board meeting.
“With anything of this nature, there are political ramifications and I want you to hear my research on this topic,” he said.
He noted that chatter he’d heard about the lawsuits centers around how the “Schools of Hope” funding violates a State Constitution prohibition of using taxing power for any private purpose or entity.
“This suit could bring down the whole bill,” Kruppenbacher said. “It’s clear there isn’t a political appetite in the Legislature to do all of what’s in the bill now. If we don’t join and the lawsuit prevails, we’ll still benefit from what happens in it one way or another.”
Board Chairman Kelvin Soto, a lawyer by trade with insight on how the process would work once it gets started, encouraged counsel to take a good look at the lawsuit.
“I agree with Apryle, in that we shouldn’t be silent on this. It is hurting us financially, our mission of conducting public education in this county, and because of that it deserves to be discussed.”