School Board Successfully Argues Against Motion to Dismiss in HB 7069 Lawsuit

The Palm Beach County School Board will proceed with its lawsuit against the Florida Department of Education challenging the constitutionality of legislation passed in June, after a judge declined the defendant’s motion to dismiss during a hearing on Monday.

During the hearing in the 2nd Judicial Circuit in Leon County, Circuit Court Judge James O. Shelfer rejected the multi-page motion to dismiss filed by the Florida Department of Education and a potential intervenor, the Academy for Positive Learning, Inc., a charter school operating in Palm Beach County.

The School Board’s challenge, filed in September, focuses on capital outlay funds referenced in section 31 of House Bill 7069, which was passed by the Florida Legislature and signed into law in June by Governor Rick Scott.

Under that section of HB 7069, school districts are required to share with charter schools the local property taxes designated for maintenance and construction of traditional public schools. Until HB 7069 was signed into law, that money had been reserved for school districts; the law now requires sharing those funds with charter schools, many of which are managed by “for profit” private companies.

The next step in the case will be the School Board’s motion for preliminary injunction to halt the distribution of capital outlay dollars before February 1, 2018. That hearing is scheduled for January 12, 2018.

At that time, the School Board will ask the court to consider its urgent request to halt the provision of HB 7069, which requires payment of over $8 million in capital funds to charter schools this fiscal year — which equals $230 million over a 10-year period for the School District of Palm Beach County.

“Since the inception of HB 7069, the School Board has maintained and intends to prove that this legislation violates the Florida Constitution, which gives local school boards control and supervision of all public schools within their school district,” said Board Chairman Chuck Shaw.

The defendants’ legal team at Monday’s hearing consisted of four private attorneys from the Atlanta office of the international law firm Eversheds Sutherland LLP; the Department of Education’s General Counsel and two associates; the Solicitor General and Deputy Solicitor General from the Office of the Attorney General; and attorneys from the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Tripp Scott et al. The legal team attempted to stop the School Board’s case from ever being heard by the Court.

However, the School Board’s legal team, represented by Jon Mills and Sabria McLeroy of Boies Schiller Flexner, LLP, successfully persuaded Judge Shelfer to deny the motion to dismiss and to allow the case to continue on the merits.

The School Board’s case is being funded by proceeds from a settlement with BP following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.