- Associated Press - Monday, August 20, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A Florida judge on Monday threw off the November ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that includes a provision to make it easier to set up charter schools in the state.

Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled that the amendment placed on the ballot by the state’s Constitution Revision Commission does not tell voters what it really does. Cooper pointed out that the amendment does not even include the words “charter schools” in its wording.

Cooper in his ruling stated that the “failure to use the term voters would understand” means that voters are not told the “chief purpose and effect of this proposal.”

Amendment 8 - as it known - combines several ideas into one amendment including instituting term limits for school board members. If passed by 60 percent of voters the amendment would also allow charter schools to set up round the state without approval by local school boards.

Charter schools receive public money, but are run privately and have become an ongoing flashpoint in the tug-of-war over public education.

Supporters of the amendment acknowledged that the purpose of the charter schools provision was to undo a previous court ruling that struck down a law that created a statewide charter school commission.

Erika Donalds, a Collier County school board member who pushed for the amendment, called the ruling “disappointing.”

“The group suing to remove Amendment 8 from the ballot fundamentally opposes empowering families to choose the education setting that best fits their child,” Donalds said in a statement. “Despite the speculation and bunk they’ve spread, I hope voters will be able to make their own decision in November.”

The amendment was challenged by the League of Women Voters of Florida in July. The organization hailed Cooper’s ruling, although it is likely to be appealed.

“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, president of the 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.”

The lawsuit filed by the League is just one of several lawsuits challenging amendments placed on the ballot by the state’s revision commission. The commission is a panel that is appointed every 20 years to suggest changes to Florida’s constitution.


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