TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Lawyers for Florida's state teacher union on Friday asked a judge to remove Amendment 8 from the November ballot, arguing the measure's summary doesn't properly inform voters that passage would result in stripping local school boards of their authority over charter schools.
- Union says Amendment 8 would strip authority over charter schools
- Charter school advocates cite school choice movement
The amendment was placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, which is empaneled once every 20 years to propose broad changes to the state's governing document.
While the commission isn't required to adhere to the 'single subject' rule the Florida Legislature and citizens' groups must adhere to when drafting proposed amendments, it is obligated to provide voters with clear and comprehensive ballot summaries.
The Florida Education Association contends the summary for Amendment 8 -- which also provides for eight-year term limits for school board members and requires civic literacy to be taught in public schools -- glosses over the measure's most contentious component: the elimination of local charter school oversight.
Florida Education Association attorney Ron Meyer told Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper the grouping of the proposals into a single amendment is a calculated move to pass the charter school regulation provision, which could have faced long odds if left to stand on its own.
"They instead chose to package it all together so that people would be deflected from the bad part, taking away the control of your local school board, and be impressed with 'I like civics education, I like term limits,'" Meyer said. "That's the misrepresentation, that's hiding the ball."
Charter school advocates, however, have sought to cast the union's effort to strike the amendment from the ballot as a futile attempt at beating back the school choice movement.
"They do it in education at every level," Constitution Revision Commissioner Erika Donalds said during the commission's debate on the amendment last spring. "If they don't win on policy, they attack the process, and that's what we've seen happen here."
Donalds and several other commissioners are appointees of House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O'Lakes), whose wife, Anne, runs a charter school and has made increasing state support for the privately-administered institutions a top priority.
Cooper told the parties at Friday's hearing he intends to rule on the challenge as soon as Monday.