Florida Moves To Rein-In Out Of Control School Boards
Our friends at Florida’s TheCapitolist.com report that a bill (HB 1467) that would eliminate salaries for school board members and increase scrutiny of the way public-school instructional materials and library books are chosen is now primed for consideration by the
full House. The measure (HB 1467) is largely centered on increasing parents’ involvement in the selection of books and other learning materials.
The bill requires that any committees convened for the purpose of “ranking, eliminating, or selecting” instructional materials must also include parents. The House Appropriations Committee on Monday signed off on the proposal after adding some tweaks.
An amendment adopted by the committee made clear that the part of the bill dealing with scrapping board members’ salaries would apply to members who are newly elected or re-elected on or after Aug. 1, 2022.
“The intent is to make sure that when members decide to run for the position, they know up front what the situation is with salaries,” Rep. Sam Garrison, a Fleming Island Republican who sponsored the bill, said.
The amendment also would allow board members who wouldn’t receive salaries to receive “reimbursements” of up to $200 for each meeting they attend, up to a maximum of $4,800 per year. Democrats and the Florida School Boards Association naturally objected to capping board members’ yearly compensation at less than $5,000.
A similar Senate bill (SB 1300) needs approval from the Rules Committee before it can go to the floor. The Senate measure aims to make school board members’ salaries equal to the yearly pay of state legislators. Lawmakers make $29,697 per year.
In addition to the salary provisions, our friend Senator Joe Gruters’s bill aims to require all school board meetings in Florida to be recorded and streamed live on a publicly available website as well as granting members of the public more freedom to participate in discussion.
SB 1300 would mandate that a minimum of 30 minutes at the start of every school board meeting be allocated for individual members of the public and representatives of groups to freely speak on any topic relating to the meeting and its proceedings. Each speaker would be given at least 3 minutes to touch on each agenda item.
SB 1300 would additionally grant speakers the right to individually criticize members of a school board given that they maintain orderly conduct and actively contribute to the ongoing discussion of the meeting.
Gruters is attempting to bolster Florida’s ‘Parent’s Bill of Rights’ that Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law earlier this year, ruling that the state may not infringe on the fundamental rights of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of their child without demonstrating that such action is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest and that such action is narrowly tailored and is not otherwise served by a less restrictive means.
“All parental rights are reserved to the parent of a minor child in this state without obstruction or interference from the state, any of its political subdivisions, any other governmental entity, or any other institution, including, but not limited to, all of the following rights of a parent of a minor child in this state,” the text of SB 1300 states according to reporting by Caden DeLisa.
A proposal filed earlier this year that Gruters sponsored – Senate Joint Resolution 244 – seeks to make Florida school board elections partisan again, a regulation that has not stood since 1998. In December the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee voted to approve the measure 5 to 4 along party lines.
Salaries for school board members
Florida House of Representatives
selection of books
Rep. Sam Garrison
Florida School Boards Association
Parents Bill of Rights
Gov. Ron DeSantis
Senator Joe Gruters