The Palm Beach County School Board agreed on Wednesday not to join 14 Florida school districts in suing the state over a law that distributes millions of dollars each year to charter schools.
The board decided instead to spend up to $150,000 to hire Boies Schiller Flexner, a national firm with offices in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, to sue the state.
The board said the law, passed in the last legislative session, is unconstitutional because it gives large amounts of money to charter schools without oversight. The legislation requires that districts share property tax dollars used for school construction and maintenance with charter schools.
The Palm Beach County school district said that means $230 million over 10 years.
Broward County was the first district to sue the state over the law, voting June 5 to spend $25,000 to join the other school districts.
Board member Frank Barbieri said the district would have no control in a suit sponsored by 15 school districts. He and other board members said Palm Beach County faces a different challenge from other districts because voters approved a one-cent sales tax over 10 years for school construction. Although this money could not go to the charter schools under the legislation, board members said other monies would have to be diverted to fund the charters.
Lynn Norman-Teck, executive director of the Fort Lauderdale-based Florida Charter School Alliance, asked the board to improve its relationship with charters in comments before the members voted.
She said charters are underfunded, getting only about 70 percent of the money dedicated to traditional public schools.
"Remember, these children are the children you serve," Norman-Teck said. She asked for "an open dialogue before moving forward with the lawsuit."
But the board voted unanimously to proceed. The $150,000 will come from a $1.6 million settlement the district received from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The board joined several school districts in 2011 in suing BP, claiming lost sales tax revenue.
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