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Ending school board salaries could be on the ballot

Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 3:52 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - School board members in Florida make an average of $34,500 a year, but key lawmakers believe the nonpartisan constitutional office is becoming too political.

Their answer is to take the salary out of the equation.

A joint resolution moving through the House would give voters the power to prohibit school board members from taking a salary.

“61% of district school board members in America today, as we sit here, serve without compensation,” said House sponsor Representative Sam Garrison.

The question would be on the 2022 ballot and, if approved, would apply to all newly elected members.

Democrats, like Representative Angela Nixon, argue it would make school boards less diverse.

“This will lead to an elitist system,” said Nixon.

School boards are the only constitutional office in the state where women hold the majority of offices.

“If we remove the salaries here, that could change and that could minimize that voice,” said Andrea Messina, Executive Director of the Florida School Boards Association.

The Association argues the level of responsibility and liability imposed on school board members exceeds that of many other constitutional officers.

“All of whom are paid for their time, energy and effort. So school board members ought to be paid as well,” said Messina.

But the sponsor believes the proposal would make the position more service oriented and less politicized.

“Some of the concerns parents have when it comes to their school boards is that it becomes about the politics and not about the kids,” said Garrison.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls agrees.

“The issue is you know getting people who, again, who are committed to the kids. You know kind of like when you get on a board for your local Boys and Girls Club,” said Sprowls.

Chris Doolin with the Small County Coalition doesn’t buy the argument.

“If the Legislature wanted to be courageous here, they would sponsor an amendment that eliminated their own salaries,” said Doolin.

The measure has cleared two committees in the House, but a similar bill in the Senate has not yet received a hearing.

If it makes it to the ballot and 60% of voters were to approve the measure, school board members elected before 2022 would still be allowed to receive a salary until they’ve reached eight years of service.

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