Citizens for Strong Sch., Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ., No. SC18-67

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation262 So.3d 127
Decision Date04 January 2019
Docket NumberNo. SC18-67
Parties CITIZENS FOR STRONG SCHOOLS, INC., et al., Petitioners, v. FLORIDA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Respondents.

262 So.3d 127

CITIZENS FOR STRONG SCHOOLS, INC., et al., Petitioners,
v.
FLORIDA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Respondents.

No. SC18-67

Supreme Court of Florida.

January 4, 2019


Jodi Siegel and Kirsten Anderson of Southern Legal Counsel, Inc., Gainesville, Florida; Timothy McLendon, Gainesville, Florida; Deborah Cupples, Gainesville, Florida; Eric J. Lindstrom of Egan, Lev & Siwica, P.A., Gainesville, Florida; and Neil Chonin, Gainesville, Florida, for Petitioners

Edward M. Wenger, Chief Deputy Solicitor General, Office of the Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida; Rocco E. Testani of Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP, Atlanta, Georgia; Matthew H. Mears, General Counsel, Department of Education, Tallahassee, Florida; Dawn Roberts, General Counsel, Florida Senate, Tallahassee, Florida; and Adam S. Tanenbaum, General Counsel, Florida House of Representatives, Tallahassee, Florida, for Respondents

Ari Bargil of Institute for Justice, Miami, Florida; Timothy D. Keller of Institute for Justice, Tempe, Arizona; and Richard Komer of Institute for Justice, Arlington, Virginia, for Respondents Celeste Johnson, Kenia Palacios, Deaundrice Kitchen, Margot Logan, Karen Tolbert, and Marian Klinger

Courtney Brewer of The Mills Firm, P.A., Tallahassee, Florida, for Amicus Curiae Education Law Center

Dena H. Sokolow and Renee Meenach Decker of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for Amicus Curiae National Law Center of Homelessness and Poverty

Robert M. Brochin and Clay M. Carlton of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Miami, Florida; Jon Lester Mills and Stephen N. Zack of Boies Schiller & Flexner, LLP, Miami, Florida; and Stuart H. Singer and Johnathan Lott of Boies Schiller & Flexner, LLP, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for Amicus Curiae Certain Commissioners of the 1998 Constitution Revision Commission

Lazaro J. Mur of The Mur Law Firm, P.A., West Palm Beach, Florida; Matthew J. Conigliaro of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A., Tampa, Florida; Russell C. Menyhart of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana; and Leslie Davis Hiner of EdChoice, Indianapolis, Indiana, for Amici Curiae Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and EdChoice

Raoul G. Cantero and Josefina Aguila of White and Case LLP, Miami, Florida, for Amicus Curiae The Urban League of Greater Miami

Daniel P. Kearney, Jr., Daniel Hartman, and Kevin Gallagher of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, Washington, District of Columbia; and Andy Bardos of Gray Robinson, P.A., Tallahassee, Florida, for Amicus Curiae The Foundation for Excellence in Education, Inc.

Joseph S. Van de Bogart of Van de Bogart Law, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for Amici Curiae United Cerebral Palsy Association of Miami, Inc., d/b/a United Community Options of Miami, and United Cerebral Palsy of Broward, Palm Beach and Mid-Coast Counties, Inc. d/b/a United Community Options of Broward, Palm Beach and Mid-Coast Counties, jointly d/b/a United Community Options of South Florida

Kevin W. Shaughnessy of Baker & Hostetler LLP, Orlando, Florida, for Amicus Curiae Several Members of the 1998 Constitution Revision Commission

PER CURIAM.

262 So.3d 128

This case involves a nearly ten-year attempt by Petitioners to have the State of Florida's K-12 public education system declared unconstitutional due to the State's alleged failure to comply with article IX, section 1(a) of the Florida Constitution, which provides in relevant part as follows:

262 So.3d 129
(a) The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education ....

Art. IX, § 1(a), Fla. Const. Specifically, Petitioners seek a declaration that the State is breaching its "paramount duty to make adequate provision for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education." And Petitioners request the courts to order the State "to establish a remedial plan that ... includes necessary studies to determine what resources and standards are necessary to provide a high quality education to Florida students."

The language in article IX, section 1(a) regarding "fundamental value," "paramount duty of the state," and "efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education" was added in 1998, after the changes were proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) and approved by the voters. Prior to 1998, article IX, section 1 provided in relevant part as follows:

Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform system of free public schools ....

The 1998 amendments were in part in response to Coalition for Adequacy & Fairness in School Funding, Inc. v. Chiles (Coalition ), 680 So.2d 400 (Fla. 1996), in which this Court upheld the trial court's dismissal with prejudice of a complaint that "asked the trial court to declare that an adequate education is a fundamental right ... and that the State has failed to provide its students that fundamental right by failing to allocate adequate resources for a uniform system of free public schools." Id. at 402. The allegations in Coalition —made in the context of "a blanket assertion that the entire system is constitutionally inadequate," id. at 406 —focused on purported inadequacies in funding and disparities relating to certain subgroups of students, including "[e]conomically deprived students," disabled students, and "[s]tudents in property-poor counties." Id. at 402. This Court upheld the dismissal with prejudice because the appellants made "an insufficient showing" "to justify" "judicial intrusion" into the Legislature's powers and responsibilities. Id. at 407 ; see id. at 408 (Overton, J., concurring).

Here, Petitioners' blanket challenge bears a striking resemblance to that in Coalition , namely in its focus on purportedly inadequate funding and on disparities relating to certain subgroups of students. The trial court, relying on Coalition and dismissing the relevance of the 1998 amendments, rejected Petitioners' challenge. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed.

We have for review Citizens for Strong Schools, Inc. v. Florida State Board of Education (Citizens ), 232 So.3d 1163 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017), in which the First District concluded that the 1998 amendments—namely, the words "efficient" and "high quality"—do not provide sufficiently manageable standards to overcome the political question and separation of powers concerns that were determinative in Coalition . We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(3), Fla. Const.

We conclude that Coalition defeats Petitioners' claim because Petitioners—like the appellants in Coalition —fail to present any manageable standard by which to

262 So.3d 130

avoid judicial intrusion into the powers of the other branches of government. Accordingly, we approve the result reached by the First District. Before explaining our decision, we review the lengthy procedural history of this case.

I. BACKGROUND

This case began in November 2009—in the wake of the Great Recession—when certain public school students, parents, and citizen organizations (collectively, Petitioners) filed suit against the State Board of Education, the President of the Florida Senate, the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, and the Florida Commissioner of Education (collectively, Respondents) seeking a declaration that the State is breaching its paramount duty under article IX, section 1(a). Or as the First District later described it, Petitioners' claim is "that the State's entire K-12 public education system—which includes 67 school districts, approximately 2.7 million students, 170,000 teachers, 150,000 staff members, and 4,000 schools—is in violation of the Florida Constitution." Citizens , 232 So.3d at 1165.

In their complaint, Petitioners cited the 1998 amendments to article IX, section 1 and asserted that "adequate provision" and "high quality" are to be "measured by both the enumerated characteristics of and inputs into the system itself as well as the outcome results of that system." Petitioners largely focused on purported inadequacies in funding and alleged that the "2009 Appropriations Act for K-12 education violates the Education Clause of the Florida Constitution." Petitioners also criticized, among other things, the State's "current accountability policy," "misus[e]" of standardized test results, inadequate graduation rates, and achievement test results. Petitioners further alleged that the State's alleged "failure to provide a high quality education disproportionately impacts minority, low income and students with disabilities." In the end, Petitioners requested that the trial court order Respondents "to establish a remedial plan that conforms with the Florida Constitution." Petitioners later amended their complaint to request that the remedial plan "include[ ] necessary...

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7 practice notes
  • Gary B. v. Whitmer, Nos. 18-1855/1871
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • April 23, 2020
    ...clauses as leaving education policies to state legislatures, see, e.g. , Citizens for Strong Sch., Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ. , 262 So. 3d 127, 129–30 (Fla. 2019) (per curiam); King v. State , 818 N.W.2d 1, 4 (Iowa 2012) ; Bonner ex rel. Bonner v. Daniels , 907 N.E.2d 516, 521–22 (Ind.......
  • Desantis v. Fla. Educ. Ass'n, No. 1D20-2470
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • October 9, 2020
    ...in School Funding, Inc. v. Chiles , 680 So. 2d 400 (Fla. 1996), and Citizens for Strong Schools, Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ. , 262 So. 3d 127, 129 (Fla. 2019) ( Citizens II ), where the Florida Supreme Court made clear that the judiciary has no role in determining the adequacy and quali......
  • Green v. Alachua Cnty., No. 1D20-1661
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 11, 2021
    ...section 23 should bear a burden to present a manageable standard. See, e.g., Citizens for Strong Schs., Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ., 262 So. 3d 127, 135 (Fla. 2019) (requiring petitioners' to "present the courts with [a] roadmap by which to avoid intruding into the powers of the ot......
  • Fla. Police Benevolent Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Tallahassee, No. 1D20-2193
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • April 6, 2021
    ...140 S. Ct. 1731, 1823, 207 L.Ed.2d 218, (2020) (Kavanaugh, J., dissenting); Citizens for Strong Schs., Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ. , 262 So. 3d 127, 142 (Fla. 2019) ("declin[ing] the invitation for the courts to overstep their bounds" and inject the court into policy making an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • Gary B. v. Whitmer, Nos. 18-1855/1871
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • April 23, 2020
    ...clauses as leaving education policies to state legislatures, see, e.g. , Citizens for Strong Sch., Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ. , 262 So. 3d 127, 129–30 (Fla. 2019) (per curiam); King v. State , 818 N.W.2d 1, 4 (Iowa 2012) ; Bonner ex rel. Bonner v. Daniels , 907 N.E.2d 516, 521–22 (Ind.......
  • Desantis v. Fla. Educ. Ass'n, No. 1D20-2470
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • October 9, 2020
    ...in School Funding, Inc. v. Chiles , 680 So. 2d 400 (Fla. 1996), and Citizens for Strong Schools, Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ. , 262 So. 3d 127, 129 (Fla. 2019) ( Citizens II ), where the Florida Supreme Court made clear that the judiciary has no role in determining the adequacy and quali......
  • Green v. Alachua Cnty., No. 1D20-1661
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 11, 2021
    ...section 23 should bear a burden to present a manageable standard. See, e.g., Citizens for Strong Schs., Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ., 262 So. 3d 127, 135 (Fla. 2019) (requiring petitioners' to "present the courts with [a] roadmap by which to avoid intruding into the powers of the ot......
  • Fla. Police Benevolent Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Tallahassee, No. 1D20-2193
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • April 6, 2021
    ...140 S. Ct. 1731, 1823, 207 L.Ed.2d 218, (2020) (Kavanaugh, J., dissenting); Citizens for Strong Schs., Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ. , 262 So. 3d 127, 142 (Fla. 2019) ("declin[ing] the invitation for the courts to overstep their bounds" and inject the court into policy making an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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