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Following SPLC lawsuit, court strikes misleading Fla. ballot measure that would have eliminated local control of some new public schools

A Florida judge ordered today that a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have eliminated local school boards’ duty to regulate some new public schools – including charter schools – be removed from the ballot.

The order follows a lawsuit the SPLC filed last month on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Florida, arguing that the amendment – known as Revision 8 – could not be legally placed on the November 2018 general election ballot because it fails to inform voters of its chief purpose, and because it deliberately conceals its true effect on public schools.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper agreed.

“The court hereby declares that the ballot title and summary language accompanying Revision 8 does not accurately inform Florida voters of the true effect of the proposed amendment,” Cooper wrote in today’s order.

“The language drafted by the Constitution Revision Commission was misleading, concealing the true intent of the revision from voters, and hiding the crucial effects the measure would have on the powers of locally elected public school boards,” said Zoe Savitsky, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “Preventing Revision 8 from being placed on the ballot keeps all public schools accountable. This is a victory for Florida’s public school children.”

On March 21, 2018, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) voted to combine the school deregulation measure described above with two separate and unrelated constitutional revisions, leaving Florida voters no choice but to approve or reject all three.

The other two measures in Revision 8 would have limited school board members’ terms and would have required “the promotion of civic literacy” for students. These two proposals were expected to win wide support among voters. The CRC combined them with the provision stripping local school districts of their authority to authorize and regulate new public schools in their districts.

“Voters should not have to read between the lines to figure out what changes they are being asked to make to their constitution, and fortunately we have a process that protects their right to make informed decisions at the ballot box,” said Patricia Brigham, League of Women Voters Florida president. “We applaud the court for seeing Revision 8 for what it is – a calculated deception aimed at shifting control over our schools from our locally elected school boards to state politicians.”