Male lawmaker who proposed cutting pay for mostly female school board members has retreated

By: - April 16, 2021 2:55 pm

School entrance sign. Photo, CD Davidson-Hiers

State Rep. Sam Garrison changed his legislation on cutting pay for mostly female school board members following some “good dialogue” with his colleagues in the Legislature, according to conversation in a committee meeting earlier this week.

Republican State Rep. Sam Garrison. Credit. Florida House of Representatives.

Garrison, an attorney and a Republican representing part of Clay County in northeast Florida, was pushing legislation that would have proposed a Constitutional amendment to prohibit compensation for school board members, even though legislators, county commissioners and other elected officials wouldn’t be targeted.

They’d get their salaries. But school board members wouldn’t, potentially a way of undervaluing work performed in female-associated careers such as education. In fact, the Phoenix found several examples of all female school board members in Florida.

In that regard, the legislation that Garrison had been pursuing could be seen at best unfair and worse, discriminatory, given that women often sit on school boards more than their male counterparts.

Now, Garrison’s bill, HJR 1461, has been heavily altered and stripped of the language about school board salaries. It is practically a whole new bill.

Instead, the legislation will revamp a familiar fight on whether school board members should have term limits, in line with other elected officials, or should they be able to serve in the position so long as they are reelected by their constituents.

Garrison noted that the measure would try to align school board members to the expectations of other elected officials by imposing term limits. He provided state lawmakers as an example, such as representatives and senators who can only serve for a total of eight years.

“I’m for term limits for dog catchers — I’m a term limit guy,” Garrison said at the Education and Employment Committee in the House. The committee passed the bill Thursday and it is heading to the House floor. The Senate would also have to approve the bill.

“It forces you, if you want to accomplish things, to do it and do it now,” Garrison said about term limits.

The bill, as it is now stands, would be making an addition to the Florida Constitution related to school board term limits. Floridians would be able to vote for or against the measure on the 2022 ballot.

Garrison explained that, should the voters go for it, the move would not be retroactive.

“Meaning that current school board members should be able to serve at least an additional eight years,” Garrison explained to at the committee. The clock would start ticking on the term limits beginning in 2022, if the measure is approved.

But the Florida Legislature has considered similar bills before. The 2020 session included a similar bill that would have worked to impose a term limit for school board members, but it died in the Senate. Some think that term limits should be a local decision, rather than a statewide policy.

Rep. Melony Bell, a Republican who represents DeSoto, Hardee, and part of Polk counties referenced her own district for that very point, because two of her counties are rural.

“They have problems finding people to run for school board in two of my counties,” Bell said at the committee meeting “There’s not enough people in the county that’s interested in running for education,” meaning a school board post.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.