Florida Moves To Restore Partisan School Board Elections
If there is anything the Trump era has taught conservatives it is that there is no such thing as a “non-partisan” institution. Supposedly non-partisan government bureaucracies, news
media, corporations, civic organizations, charities, and especially schools and universities, are relentlessly partisan and increasingly aligned, not just with Democrats, but with the Far Left.
And in many states and localities that purport to conduct nonpartisan elections, the offices so elected are the beachheads of the Far Left in otherwise conservative jurisdictions.
The mess in the Loudoun County, Virginia schools is just one salient example of the Far Left Democrat takeover of a school board, which subsequently moved from a focus on excellence to promoting CRT, transgenderism and a host of other Far Left Democrat policy goals.
Currently, school board elections in Florida are “non-partisan,” which in practice means that no political party affiliation appears next to their name on the ballot. Non-partisan races were intended to reduce partisanship in certain kinds of campaigns. In school board races, it was hoped that non-partisan campaigns would ensure that decisions made by school boards were based on what is best for students and the education system, rather than on purely political considerations.
But with more and more examples of political ideology creeping into school curriculum, school board races have gained prominence and have become more political.
Florida enacted a constitutional amendment designating many local offices as “non-partisan” in 1998, about the time Democrats began to lose control of the state legislature, and non-partisan school boards and city councils have long served as the Democrat “bench” in otherwise conservative counties.
But all that may change thanks to HJR 31, legislation introduced by Florida Republican State Representative Spencer Roach (HD-76 Ft. Meyers). Rep. Roach and our old friend state Senator Joe Gruters unsuccessfully filed a similar measure for the 2022 session. If approved by lawmakers, Roach’s proposal would go before voters in 2024.
Sen. Gruters also serves as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and is in our opinion one of the best GOP state chairmen in the country. Gruters gets the culture war and the parent rebellion against “woke” education and, along with Governor Ron DeSantis, has put the Florida GOP on the correct side of those issues.
When the previous legislation was introduced Gruters said, “It doesn’t matter what county you are in; these races are already partisan.”
He also noted correctly that Democratic and Republican activist organizations are “already choosing their favorites” in these elections–even though the candidates are running as non-partisan.
Gruters explained partisan school board elections would end what he referred to as a “shell game” where candidates with “partisan leanings” are running, but they can shield their “true political views” from Florida voters because they’re seeking a non-partisan office.
In order for the proposed measure to move forward in January it would need 60 percent approval in both the House and the Senate.
Then the proposed constitutional amendment would go before the voters in November 2024 and would need more than 60 percent of them to approve it to become law.
Partisan Democrats in the news media opposed the legislation last time around, and we expect them to do so this time as well.
Last session, two of Florida’s largest newspapers, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald came out against state Senator Joe Gruters’ bill.
The Sun-Sentinel’s editorial was particularly over the top saying, “Partisan School Board elections? It’s a dangerous idea, literally” and uncritically promoting the idea that the FBI was justified in targeting concerned parents as domestic terrorists.
And in arguing against partisan school board elections, the Orlando Sentinel pretty much made state Senator Gruters’ point for him:
Gruters is right about one thing: School board elections are already partisan enough, and a hotly contested 2020 race for the Broward County School Board illustrates the point.
In a supposedly nonpartisan race for the District 3 seat, incumbent Heather Brinkworth was targeted by Democrats who robo-called voters with reminders that she was appointed by former Republican Gov. Rick Scott and false claims that she was anti-LGBTQ. Challenger Sarah Leonardi had strong support from Democratic political clubs and Democratic-aligned unions and defeated Brinkworth.
The Miami Herald likewise editorialized against partisan school board elections and in large measure argued against its own case saying:
Partisanship might work in Congress or the state Capitol, but we have historically done our best to keep it out of public education. That’s lost on Florida’s Republican leaders, who have turned masks into a liberal-versus-conservative battle and politicized anything from Dr. Anthony Fauci to Critical Race Theory, a term most people had never heard of (and probably don’t know what it actually means) until Donald Trump made it into a boogeyman for white parents who are opposed to racial-equity efforts. DeSantis banned teaching CRT from K-12 — even though it’s not part of school curriculum in Florida.
This is patently false, CRT has crept into Florida schools as research by many Florida parents and grassroots education advocacy organizations, such as Moms for Liberty and our friends at the Florida Citizen’s Alliance, has demonstrated.
Governor Ron DeSantis this cycle endorsed 30 school board candidates this cycle, 25 of which eventually won their elections.
We endorsed Florida’s SJR 244 last session, and without reservation we endorse HJR 31 this session. We urge CHQ readers and friends in Florida to tell their state legislators to back the legislation. And if your state is plagued by phony “non-partisan” elections, particularly for school board, we urge you to contact your state legislators to tell them to introduce legislation to return so-called non-partisan “shell game” elections to party affiliation elections.
Florida schoolboard elections
Gov. Ron DeSantis
Loudon County Virginia
Critical Race Theory
liberal school curriculum
Representative Spencer Roach
Senator Joe Gruters