Florida Court Invokes Separation of Powers in Refusal To Play 'Adequacy' Game in Public Education - Granite Grok

Florida Court Invokes Separation of Powers in Refusal To Play ‘Adequacy’ Game in Public Education

Florida State Supreme Court

New Hampshire’s Claremont decision turned on the question of adequacy in education. Property-poor “districts” would never have as much money as property-rich towns. Ignoring the fact that money does not equal adequacy in education New Hampshire has been wrestling with this question for decades.

But when you are talking about schools, and education, unions, and adequacy,and lawyers (like Andru Volinsky), there is “no enough.”

In 1997, the New Hampshire school funding system was found unconstitutional and the legislature and governor were ordered to define the components of a constitutionally adequate education, cost them out and pay for them with taxes that were equal across the state.

To their credit, both Governors and the legislature did their best to ignore the Court for years. 

It’s been decades and the only measurable results are these. We’re spending more than ever (even in property-rich towns) and getting less. Another lawsuit seems likely if the current Democrat run-legislature can’t manage to throw even more money down the same hole.

In my town, public education consumes about three-quarters of all taxes. We spend more than 70 million dollars per year on a declining number of students with increasingly poor results. Many New Hampshire towns pay more for less. A cost per student per year that rivals local colleges.

The Left does not care because this game is not about an adequate education it is about money. More money. And as we have so often said, there is never enough money. They will try to take more and get more and we might see that lawsuit anyway. 

Look to Florida Where the Courts Say, Not My Job

Meanwhile, down in the Sunshine State, the same sorts of Democrats have been striving for judicial intervention. An act of judicial force based on “adequacy.” It has not been a comfortable ride.

A lower court noted that,

Whether the [Constitution Revision] Commission intended to create a justiciable standard is ultimately irrelevant. The test is whether an enforceable standard was actually created by the text of the amendment itself. Because the terms “efficient . . . and high quality” are no more susceptible to judicial enforcement than the term “adequate,” this claim cannot be enforced by the courts.

It’s not our job, go away.

In the midst of all of this, by the way, the same folks tried to invalidate voucher and scholarship programs what we like to call, education competition. They claimed that these programs redistributed public money to “private schools” or that they were unconstitutional. The court disagreed.

But these are all familiar screeds to Granite Staters. 

Another Court Another Ruling

The next ruling must have been even less satisfying if not for the outcome but the explanation.

The trial court early on noted that “Florida’s system of education is structurally complicated,” in part because each county has its own school board with constitutional duties and authority. The trial court thus explained that variability necessarily exists between school districts, even among those with equivalent funding, given “variations in how the local districts allocate their resources.” And the trial court concluded that the school districts, who were not parties to the suit, were “indispensable parties” to the extent Petitioners “seek relief for decisions that Florida law entrusts to local school districts—including decisions on hiring, staffing, and the allocation of resources among schools within a particular district.”

Given the variables, no blanket solution can be applied to this problem by any court. It, therefore, continues to be a political question for elected officials to address at the behest of those who choose them.

The court also noted that there was no apparent lack of attention to education. That even during the recession state funding for education was at a historical high. And that the Florida Education Finance Program—“is generally recognized as one of the most equalizing school funding formulas in the nation.” 

Not our problem (if there even is a problem) go away.

State Supreme Court Agrees

I’ve barely scratched the surface, but it’s time to put this to bed.

In supporting a lower court ruling the Florida State Supreme court wrote,

We conclude that Coalition defeats Petitioners’ claim because Petitioners—like the appellants in Coalition—fail to present any manageable standard by which to avoid judicial intrusion into the powers of the other branches of government. Accordingly, we approve the result reached by the First District.

The key point being, again, that the Florida State Supreme Court upheld the lower court dismissal on the grounds that the appellants made “an insufficient showing” “to justify” “judicial intrusion” into the Legislature’s powers and responsibilities. 

It’s not our job, go away.

To close the loop, way back when, in 2006, then Chief Justice for the New Hampshire State Supreme Court wrote, “I certainly don’t know what an adequate education is. This is a matter for the people’s elected representatives, not the judiciary, to decide.”

The legislature has decided a lot of things. Many of them have been good for children and families. Some have been good for unions and school administrators (or Democrats, where they are not the same). But public schools are still a train wreck. 

If we’re going to address adequacy as it pertains to public education, there is no correlation between more public money and better-educated students. Changing how we take more money from taxpayers won’t make any difference. A fact that reveals the truth of it all from day one.

This was never about education. It was about more and broader taxation. Not just more money for the government but how they collect it. Using children to create tax mechanisms that centralize power in the state capitol.

It’s all they’ve ever wanted.

H/T Michelle Levell