The public schools enroll 2,721,000 students: 41% White, 30% Latino, and 23% African American, with 58% living in poverty, and 9% learning English. The State spends $8,623 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require.”
“To assure that children attending public schools obtain a high quality education, the legislature shall make adequate provision to ensure that, by the beginning of the 2010 school year, there are a sufficient number of classrooms so that:
(1) The maximum number of students who are assigned to each teacher who is teaching in public school classrooms for prekindergarten through grade 3 does not exceed 18 students;
(2) The maximum number of students who are assigned to each teacher who is teaching in public school classrooms for grades 4 through 8 does not exceed 22 students; and
(3) The maximum number of students who are assigned to each teacher who is teaching in public school classrooms for grades 9 through 12 does not exceed 25 students.”
“The class size requirements of this subsection do not apply to extracurricular classes. Payment of the costs associated with reducing class size to meet these requirements is the responsibility of the state and not of local school districts. Beginning with the 2003-2004 fiscal year, the legislature shall provide sufficient funds to reduce the average number of students in each classroom by at least two students per year until the maximum number of students per classroom does not exceed the requirements of this subsection.” Fla. Const. art. IX, § 1(a), as amended by voters in 1998.
“Every four-year old child in Florida shall be provided by the State a high quality pre-kindergarten learning opportunity in the form of an early childhood development and education program which shall be voluntary, high quality, free, and delivered according to professionally accepted standards. An early childhood development and education program means an organized program designed to address and enhance each child’s ability to make age appropriate progress in an appropriate range of settings in the development of language and cognitive capabilities and emotional, social, regulatory and moral capacities through education in basic skills and such other skills as the Legislature may determine to be appropriate. Fla. Const. art. IX, § 1(b).
“Each county shall constitute a school district [and each county’s elected] school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district…. Fla. Const. art. IX, § 4(a) and 4(b).
In 1981, in Department of Education v. School Board of Collier County, the Florida Supreme Court found that the Legislature may distribute funds unequally on the basis of public school students’ educational need.
In 1996, the Florida Supreme Court dismissed Coalition for Adequacy and Fairness in School Funding v. Chiles, a case in which plaintiffs alleged that the State was violating the then-current education article in the State constitution. In 1998, after this ruling, the voters approved the current, stronger education article.
In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court, in Bush v. Holmes, found a voucher law unconstitutional because it caused the State to foster plural, non-uniform systems of education in violation of the constitutional mandate for a uniform system of free public schools.
The Court found that the “efficient, safe, secure, and high quality” language provides constitutional standards to measure the adequacy provision found in the second sentence of section 1. The Court also concluded that the constitution imposes “a maximum duty on the state to provide for public education that is uniform and of high quality.”
In 2009, plaintiffs filed Citizens for Strong Schools (CSS) v. Florida State Bd. of Educ., claiming that the State's education funding system violated the constitution’s education article. The trial was held in 2016, and the trial court’s ruling is on appeal before the Florida Supreme Court. A ruling is expected in 2017.