On Monday, March 14 Hernando County Schools will be part of a lawsuit challenging the Florida State Board of Education, Florida House of Representatives, Florida Senate and the Commissioner of Education.
It's charging the state with failing to provide high quality education for students.
The case, known as Citizens for Strong Schools v. State Bd. of Education will be decided over a five week trial.
At issue is the state’s education funding formula or the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) which legislators use to determine how much money each school district gets.
Parent, Gregg Laskoski is leading the charge in raising awareness about the disparities between Florida’s school districts.
“Districts like Hernando County, that don’t have the political clout in Tallahassee have been severely underfunded since 1973 when the state enacted the Florida education funding formula. We’ve have 67 school districts.. The difference between the highest funded districts and the lowest funded district is more than $6,000 per student. That just does not make sense,” he said.
The lawsuit is calling for that formula to be reevaluated, claiming it puts students in different counties on uneven playing fields.
“It’s not one year that I’m worried about, it’s decades of under funding. You’re talking about many of millions of dollars we’ll never recover,” said Laskoski.
On Monday, Hernando will join 11 other states challenging the education system.
The most recent one in Kansas.
Last month, the Kansas Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to fix unfair and unconstitutional school funding by June 30 deadline or risk shutting down school districts statewide.
With little money from the state, Hernando school leaders showed us what some of the disparities mean for students in their schools. While other schools have smart boards, lap tops and iPads, some teachers in Hernando are still using projectors
“This directly impacts how our students prosper,” said Karen Jordan, Public Information Officer for Hernando County Schools.
We first told you about the dire need in Hernando last year, with the district seeking $87 million in repairs.
This fall county voters approved a half cent school sales tax bringing in $8 million per year to pay for infrastructure repairs.
Hernando’s superintendent in one of four across the state set to testify in this five week trial.
If the school district wins it could mean significant changes for districts like Pinellas, Polk, Citrus and Pasco, all below the states median level.
Southern Legal, the law firm brining this litigation against the state sent us this statement regarding the trial:
“All children are impacted, but the struggling students are affected more, including students of color, those living in poverty, students who are experiencing homelessness, English language learners and students with disabilities. Southern Legal Counsel seeks to achieve systemic reform so that every student in the public education system can receive a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high-quality education.”