Florida Supreme Court knocks Amendment 8 off November ballot

STEPHON JOHNSON | 9/13/2018, 2:47 p.m.
Florida’s State Supreme Court struck an amendment from the ballot for misleading voters about its true nature.
Voting has begun in the 2016 Presidential Election in Ashburn, VA. CNN photo

Florida’s State Supreme Court struck an amendment from the ballot for misleading voters about its true nature.

Florida’s state justices, in a 4-3 decision, upheld a lower court ruling that Amendment 8 deceived voters by not stating its true pro-charter school purpose on the ballot. The Republican-controlled state government looked to push an amendment that would have helped expand the amount of public money steered toward private charter schools at the expense of public schools.

“The summary final judgment entered in this case Aug. 20, 2018, by the Honorable John C. Cooper, Circuit Judge for the Second Judicial Circuit of Florida is hereby affirmed and the proposed revision to the Florida Constitution proposed by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, designated by the Secretary of State as Revision 8, is stricken from the November 2018 general election ballot,” read the ruling of the Kenneth J. Detnzer v. League of Women Voters of Florida, et al. case. “An opinion setting forth our reasons for this decision will issue at a later date. Rehearing will not be entertained.”

“The Florida Supreme Court’s decision to prevent the secretary of state from placing Revision 8 on the November 2018 ballot is a victory for schoolchildren across the state,” said Zoe Savitsky, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a statement.

The state Supreme Court ruling is final. Amendment 8 was scheduled to appear on the ballot on Election Day, Nov. 6. The SPLC filed the lawsuit in July on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Patricia M. Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said pro-charter school moneyed men and women were caught red-handed trying to change the outlook of education in Florida.

“This case once again illustrates the importance of fair and impartial courts to provide the necessary check against political overreach,” said Brigham in a statement. “If the backers of this amendment truly wanted this decision to be left to the voters, they would have put it forward as a stand-alone amendment in clear, unambiguous language. They had every opportunity to do just that.”

Amendment 8 also aimed to impose school board term limits and make civics education mandatory via the Constitution. Critics of the amendment wanted this element separated from the pro-charter subterfuge.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said this ruling was a victory for her Florida constituents.

“This is a victory for public education, the students who attend public schools, their communities and democracy in the state of Florida,” said Weingarten in a statement. “Amendment 8 was deceptively written to mask its true intent—to take control away from parents, educators and communities to create an unaccountable way to take money away from public schools for charters. The proponents of Amendment 8 wanted to install the same kind of anti-public school agenda that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos created in Michigan by spending millions of dollars to privatize schools—which had a terrible record: lackluster results for the kids in the non-public schools, and hurting kids who remained in the public schools, too.”

“The backers of this proposal on the CRC went to great lengths to hide the ball because they realized that Floridians would never knowingly forfeit their right to local control over their local public schools,” added Brigham.