Published: Nov 23, 2011 4:55 PM EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A sharply divided appellate court has blocked efforts by Florida legislative and education leaders to halt a lawsuit over state school funding.
The 1st District Court of appeal on Wednesday also passed the issue on to the Florida Supreme Court as a question of "great public importance."
The 8-7 ruling came in a lawsuit filed by parents, students and two advocacy groups: Citizens for Strong Schools and Fund Education Now.
They allege the state has failed to live up to state constitutional requirements to provide a "uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools."
The suit contends Florida's public schools have been shortchanged by the Legislature.
State officials asked the appellate court to block further proceedings after a trial judge refused to dismiss the case.

(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)