Judge Says Florida Education System Making Steady Strides
On Tuesday, a Leon County court judge rejected a new proposal which broadly challenges the state’s present education system, claiming that current lawmakers had, indeed, met their constitutional obligation to provide high-quality—and free—education to students in Florida.
In addition to the blanket rejection, Circuit Judge George Reynolds also questioned if he, himself, had the presumptive legal authority to “second guess” legislators, citing that forming such a decision could result in an even bigger legal mess for all courts.
This ruling poses a notable win for Republican-controlled Florida States legislature—and other leading state officials—who had already spent more than $4 million to defend the state after lawsuits began in 2009. if it had gone through, the legal challenge could have upended Florida’s whole education system as it would also then challenge the Sunshine State’s use of standardized testing, charter schools, and private school vouchers.
However, Reynolds did rule that “the weight of evidence shows that the state has made education a top priority” through the imposition of several sweeping changes which had been implemented under Gov. Jeb Bush; and through the holding of school priority a top item of focus within the state’s budget.
Indeed, Senate President Andy Gardiner comments, “Today’s ruling validates the Legislature’s policy choices on education which have dramatically improved student performance over the past 15 years.”
In the whole of Reynolds’ 29-page decision, the official did admit he saw problems in Florida schools. He also noted that the state did not show evidence of improving fast enough to turn around those schools which had earlier received an F-grade. Furthermore, he admitted that the state only has a limited capacity to force local school boards to actually commit to decisions which would help school children.
At the same time, he also maintained enough evidence exists to show that school performance has, in fact, improved since Jeb Bush was originally elected in 1998, largely on a platform that the state schools need an overhaul. Reynolds then goes on to suggest that a handful of the claims made by these groups were, in turn, “political questions best resolved in the political arena.”
In the manuscript, Reynolds writes, “The court finds, based on the evidence presented, that there is a not a constitutional lack of resources available in Florida schools,” adding, “That doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, it simply means that there is not a constitutional level crisis sufficient to warrant judicial intervention.”