WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. —The courts have sided with the Florida Charter Educational Foundation in its application to open a charter school in Palm Beach County, putting the organization one step closer to realizing its goal.

According to Florida Charter Education Foundation Chairman Rod Jurado, an appeals court recently upheld the constitutionality of a law that allows the State Board of Education to overturn local denials of charter-school applications.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal in Palm Beach, Fla.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal in Palm Beach, Fla.

The dispute arose from an application by the Florida Charter Educational Foundation and South Palm Beach Charter School to open a charter school. The Palm Beach County School Board denied the application, according to a report by The News Service of Florida. The 4th District Court of Appeal rejected the Palm Beach board's arguments that the law infringes on local school boards' power for creating charter schools. Charter schools are public schools usually operated by private companies, the report said.

Jurado told the Florida Record that the organization submitted a charter application under the state and county’s charter-school guidelines.

“The school-system charter-review committee and superintendent approved the charter,” he said. “When it went to the Palm Beach School Board, they decided they didn't want to accept our application and turned us down in a board meeting.”

Jurado said the foundation then appealed through the appropriate process in Tallahassee through the Charter School Appeals Commission. He noted that the CSAC, which makes recommendations to the State Board of Education, ruled that the charter school should be approved.

“That commission agreed the PBSB had no reason to reject our application and sided with my board. The PBSB decided they would ignore the CSAC and maintained their position,” he said. “We took it to the Florida State Board of Education, who agreed with us, and the CSAC, and yet the PBSB still decided they didn't want our charter school and they kept to their denial.”

The State Board of Education also sided with the FCEF, issuing an order that reversed the county's denial of the charter-school application.

After that decision, the Palm Beach School Board appealed to the 4th District Court of Appeals, alleging that the whole process was unconstitutional, according to court documents.

“They allege that they (PBSB) alone had the right to control charters in their district,” Jurado said. “The 4th District Court of Appeals ruled that the process was constitutional and that the PBSB was wrong.”

The Palm Beach School District now must respond to the decision, and its options are limited.  

“The 4th District Court of Appeals opinion confirmed our position, so there will be no more appeals,” Jurado said. “It is up to the Palm Beach School Board to accept this ruling or to continue their fight.”

Edward J. Pozzuoli and Stephanie Alexander of Tripp Scott, P.A., in Fort Lauderdale handled legal representation for the Florida Charter Educational Foundation, according to court documents.

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