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Suit Challenges State’s Commitment to Students

November 18th, 2009 by flanews

A lawsuit filed in Tallahassee today claims the state is violating its constitutional obligation to provide a “high quality” education to Florida students. The suit claims budget cuts and an intense focus on test scores are limiting learning. As Whitney Ray tells us, the suit comes as lawmakers prepare for more cuts to fill an expected 2.6 dollar budget hole.

For the past four years teachers, students, and parents have been begging state lawmakers to save their schools from the budget ax. Despite their cry, billions have been cut from education. Schools are laying off teachers, cutting classes, and making due with less. Principle Rocky Hanna says the cuts are hurting students.

“I know there are lots of priorities, whether you are a firefighter, a policeman or you are a civil servant, but our kids, these kids deserve better,” said Hanna.

A group of non-partisan lawyers agree and joined parents to sue the state claiming the high quality education promised in Florida’s constitution has been compromised. Their argument hinges on an increasing focus on test scores and deep budget cuts. For the first time in Florida’s history less than half of all education funds come from the state leaving local governments scrambling to fill the gap.

Governor Charlie Crist says despite the burden shift in education funding and the recent reductions Florida schools are improving. Crist says he welcomes all points of view.

“I encourage anybody to participate in the improving of our education system in Florida and I think those people are well intended and I would encourage them to help us do better for Florida’s kids,” said Crist.

Five billion in stimulus money saved schools from even deeper cuts in 2009, but the money is gone after next school year. Also looming is a constitutional requirement calling for all schools to meet the class size restrictions on class-by-class bases. Right now schools are beating the measure by basing their numbers on school wide averages. Many principals say they won’t be able to meet the class size requirements.

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