Charter school dispute goes to Florida Supreme Court

The Palm Beach County School Board has gone to the Florida Supreme Court in a dispute about whether it is required to make retroactive payments to charter schools stemming from a 2018 referendum. 

The board filed a notice Thursday that is a first step in asking the Supreme Court to review a March 22 ruling by a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal. As is common, the notice does not include detailed legal arguments. 

The 2018 referendum asked voters to approve a property-tax increase for issues such as school safety and teacher pay, saying the money would be "dedicated for operational needs of non-charter district schools." 

Charter schools are public schools that are typically operated by private entities. After voters approved the ballot measure, charter schools Academy for Positive Learning and Palm Beach Maritime Academy and two parents filed a lawsuit against the school board arguing that charter schools were entitled to a portion of the money. 

The appeals court in 2021 agreed that the charter schools should get a cut of the tax dollars, and the Supreme Court later declined to take up the issue. Left undecided, however, was whether the charter schools should recoup money from the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years, a period when the legal issues remained unresolved. 

The appeals-court panel in March overturned a circuit judge’s ruling that said sovereign immunity shielded the school board from having to make retroactive payments.