by: Andrew Marra|Palm Beach Post
September 28, 2015
The state government’s effort to force the opening of a charter school in Delray Beach is an unconstitutional attack on the Palm Beach County School Board’s “exclusive power” to regulate local schools, school board attorneys argue in a new court filing.
The school board is fighting in court to uphold its decision last year to reject a charter school’s application on the grounds that it wasn’t “innovative.”
That decision was overruled in April by the Florida Board of Education, which threw it out after the school, South Palm Beach Charter School, appealed.
But the school board argues in a brief to a state appeals court that Florida’s constitution gives the state board no power to categorically overrule its decision.
Florida’s constitution says that county school boards “shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district.” But it also says that the state Board of Education “shall have such supervision of the system of free public education as is provided by law.”
Currently, state law allows charter schools whose applications are rejected by a local school board to appeal to the state.
In the brief filed this week, the school board argues that that law “invalidly delegates to the State Board of Education the authority to approve charter applications even though the School Board has the exclusive power to establish, ‘operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district.’”
In its brief, the school board argues that it has the authority to reject charter schools that are insufficiently “innovative.” As proof, it points to a state law that says that school boards that oversee a charter school “shall ensure that the charter is innovative and consistent with the state education goals.”
At a school board meeting last year, board members decided to reject the school’s application because it didn’t appear distinctive from nearby district-run schools or other charters run by the same operating company, the national chain Charter Schools USA.
In a statement Monday, School Board Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri said the appeals process improperly lets the state overrule independent school boards.
“The state can effectively force local boards to grant charter school applications unilaterally,” he said.
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