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Pinellas County Schools Sign Off On Potential Lawsuit

HB 7069, a 274-page law, went into effect on July 1.

In a unanimous decision, the Pinellas County School Board has voted to join a potential lawsuit against the state.

It now joins Polk, Orange, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Broward and six other state school districts in agreeing to share costs of a legal challenge to a new education law in Florida.

Critics say a few provisions in the 274-page law are unconstitutional and strip local school boards of their authority to manage public schools.

Much of the controversy centers on what's become known as “schools of hope," which make it easier for charter schools to open near academically struggling traditional public schools. It also requires school districts to share taxpayer money with charter schools.

Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers called the provision "unfair," since the state expects public schools to meet specific standards.

"I think it’s very disingenuous to continue to put upon us those benchmarks that you want to see our students achieve, yet take away from our ability to make those things happen at the same time," she said.

Supporters of the HB 7069, led by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, have argued the law will improve public education by giving students now attending struggling traditional public schools another option outside their neighborhood schools. 

Pinellas board members also said they would drop out of  the proposed lawsuit if legislators make changes to the law. Pinellas Schools Superintendent Michael Grego said he will send a letter to lawmakers citing a list of the school district's concerns. 

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