Tallahassee, FL - September 14, 2012
State lawmakers will have to defend education cuts in court. A lawsuit filed three years ago claims the state doesn’t provide a high-quality level of public education as laid out in the state constitution.
Florida’s constitution guarantees a “high quality” public education, but in 2009, Fund Education Now filled a lawsuit claiming it’s anything but.
“The Florida Legislature has cut funds to public education by four billion dollars,” said Kathleen Oropeza.
We spoke to the group’s co-founder by phone. For three years lawmakers have blocked her suit, but this week their luck ran out.
“We get to have our day in court. We get to present the evidence and we get to have this discussion in front of the people in the light of day,” said Oropeza.
The suit claims billions of dollars in spending cut by state lawmakers and below average pay for Florida teachers are making it impossible for schools to provide students with a high quality education.
Last year Governor Rick Scott and lawmakers increased education spending by a billion dollars. Democrats, say it was too little to late.
“We had cut a billion three a year before and so you do the math. Hopefully this year we will put two billion in to education,” said State Representative Darryl Rouson.
But Republicans say they did the best they could with dwindling state revenues.
“Among those advocates I don’t think there is enough money in the State of Florida to do it. You look at Chicago where you’ve got a union striking and they’re making 70-thousand dollar base salaries,” said State Senator JD Alexander.
At the center of the suit will be the definition of high quality and whether or not it’s available to all Florida students.
Lawmakers argued the lawsuit should be blocked because their responsible for the state budget and the judicial branch isn’t allowed to tell them how to spend taxpayer money. The argument was taken to the state’s highest court and failed.