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Gelber Wants McCollum to Sue Gov. Crist, Legislature

State Sen. Dan Gelber is asking Attorney General Bill McCollum to sue the Legislature and governor for providing an inadequate level of school funding.

For Gelber, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general, the move may provide a glimpse at what his agenda might be should he be elected next year to be the state’s top lawyer.

Gelber said at a news conference Tuesday that the state is failing to provide a high quality education to Florida's students.

And that, he said, is grounds for a lawsuit because of a section of the Florida constitution that says “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.”

Schools in Florida struggled as the economy sputtered last year and money became tight. Many school districts have had to lay off teachers and support personnel and cut programs.

However, the state, relying heavily on federal stimulus money, did actually increase per student funding for the 2009-2010 school year over the 2008-2009 school year from $6,844 to $6,873. It will likely largely depend on stimulus money for next year's budget as well, unless lawmakers develop a separate spending strategy.

The increase just wasn't enough, Gelber said, noting that the State Board of Education wanted a $7,397 per pupil budget..

“I see teachers asking parents for donations of paper,” he said.

Gelber, who faces state Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, in the primary, said if he were attorney general, he’d file suit.

But McCollum, is unlikely to go along with Gelber's suggestion, unless he wants to openly criticize his own Republican Party for the budget it passed this past year.

A spokeswoman said McCollum, who is running for governor, believes education is a “top priority that must be adequately funded.”

“Article IX, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution imposes this responsibility solely on the Legislature, of which Sen. Gelber is a member,” McCollum spokeswoman Sandi Copes said in an email. “Before any judicial action can be pursued, it is incumbent on the Legislature to take action on a proposed budget and provide funding for Florida's educational system.”

11 Responses »

  1. This is why we need tort reform.

    • I dont think this is really related to Tort reform. This looks like a civil action seeking some sort of injunction on the state to comply with procedures.

    • A tort is a civil wrong, as opposed to a criminal wrong, not arising from a contractual obligation. Torts may be intentional acts like assault or battery or negligent acts or omissions, like careless driving or medical malpractice.

      It is important to know your legal definitions when communicating in a public forum. Tort reform, among other things, places limits on the compensation for damages that an individual or their legal counsel can obtain from the court. In this case it appears that a declaratory judgment is object of the would-be lawsuit. A declaratory judgment is not a damages based judgment

  2. Ahh, I was waiting on your response. You are almost always the anti-thesis of my opinion. I hope it doesnt reflect resentment on your part.

    I disagree. I think it illustrates why tort reform is needed.

  3. All one needs to do is look at posts on here, jaxoutloud, and the times union blogs to know that no money is being spent on edcuation in this state.

    McCollum is not that stupid. And Gelber has been in the Senate for how long??? He has had this entire time to make sure this got handled.

  4. Your first mistake is to use Jaxoutloud as a resource. The blog is a joke.

    Secondly, I don't agree or disagree with the premise that the education system isn't adaquately financed.
    What I do think is this is an example of why Florida, why America needs tort reform. The lawsuite is a political stunt.

  5. Jaxoutloud= zero credibility

  6. Right stuff, I'm of the opinion that I used the correct terminology, Gelber is asking to sue for some type of dereliction of duty. Explain to me how that doesn't fall under tort reform.
    That aside, the principle remains the same: this is a political based request. It is important to understand definitions. It is just as important to grasp principles. The failure to do so illustrates a lack of common sense. Agreed?

    • Jim,
      First, I want to be very clear, I absolutely think that this is political posturing, but it does not change the fact that Right Stuff is correct.

      This lawsuit is a request for an injunction to force the governor or state government to fulfill a constitutional/legal obligation, it is not a tort. This is not a breach of duty action (which would be negligence), and it is not an intentional tort (which are generally between persons anyways).

      Also, I hope your constant sniping at JOL does not represent any sort of resentment towards me. I have none towards you, I enjoy debating with you, in fact. :)

  7. Jose, Absolutely, there is no animosity towards you. But you're right in that I have zero respect for Jaxoutloud.
    If this doesnt fall under the term "tort" I'll aquiess the point. However, it does illustrate the abuse of the legal system: no matter the actual delineation.

    • Well, Jim, I think the method being employed here is one way in which Constitutional disputes are handled, while you and I know that this is just political posturing, I dont think there is a way to reform this particular type of civil suit without throwing out the baby with the bathwater.