Florida wants pre-K out of expanded schools lawsuit

The state of Florida is asking a judge to dismiss an attempt to include the state’s preschool program in a lawsuit challenging multiple aspects of its K-12 system.

The groups suing the state over education funding and other issues widened the five-year-old lawsuit in late May, adding new arguments about charter schools, McKay scholarships, and tax credit scholarships. They also added a new argument that the state’s preschoolers do not have access to a “high quality pre-kindergarten learning opportunity” required in the state’s constitution.

Lawyers for the state argued in court papers filed last week that the pre-K claims raise an issue outside the scope of the original lawsuit, and deal with a separate provision of the state constitution, approved by voters in 2002, that led to the creation of Florida’s Voluntary Pre-K program. They said if someone wants to take the state to court over its early learning system, they should do so in a separate suit.

“The new claims regarding Florida’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program do not involve facts or law in common with the current case,” their motion says. “The voluntary pre-kindergarten program arises under a different constitutional provision from the K-12 public education system with a different structure and different constitutional standards.”

They also say none of the plaintiffs, who include public school students and several persistent critics of Florida’s education policies, has direct ties to the state’s Pre-K system.

The K-12 portion of the case deals with issues from funding and standardized testing to student safety and school choice. All of those arguments could technically center on a provision of the state constitution requiring a “uniform” and “adequate” K-12 public education system.

The state’s lawyers say arguments on those issues are expected to last four to six weeks when the case comes before a Leon County judge more than a year from now. Adding Pre-K to the mix, they write, could drag the case out even longer.