Every member of the Broward School Board is a woman. Credit: Broward County Public Schools website.
Florida lawmakers are in a battle over the monetary worth of local school board members — often female-dominated elected officials that became a target during the COVID pandemic as mask mandates, parent power and the executive branch clashed with local boards.
Two bills are moving through the 2022 legislative session: One attempts to match school board member annual salaries to those of Florida lawmakers — $29,697 — which would drastically decrease the pay of most Florida school boards, data show.
The other bill would cut school board salaries entirely. Florida has 67 school districts.
The two bills this session are a continuation of state officials trying to limit salaries of Florida school board members, raising questions about sexism.
The Phoenix sampled the makeup of several Florida school boards and found that most, if not all, board members are women.
Currently, school board members are paid an annual salary that varies by district. According to an annual report from the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, salaries range from about $27,000 in smaller counties to about $47,189 in Florida’s largest school districts. That’s based on 2021-22 data.
State Sen. Joe Gruters proposes that all school board members should make the same pay as Florida lawmakers, which is an annual salary of $29,697, according to Florida House and Senate websites.
He chairs the Senate Education Committee and is a Republican who represents Sarasota County and part of Charlotte County. Gruters also is chair of the Republican Party of Florida.
In Sarasota, the school board is comprised of four women and one man, and members would lose money under Gruters’ bill, SB 1300. That’s because board members now are paid $43,508 in Sarasota, according to a Phoenix analysis.
As for the Charlotte County school board, comprised of three women and two men, salaries are $38,847. But Gruters’ bill would cut that to align with lawmaker salaries.
Sen. Tina Polsky, a Democrat who represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, asked Gruters why this legislation is necessary.
He indicated that it was in response to another bill in the House, which would cut school board compensation entirely, and he thinks school board members should get some compensation.
“There is an effort to bring the salaries down to zero, and I think, as a starting point, we’re going to start with what we get paid. And I think its a fair number,” Gruters responded.
Polsky responded: “While I appreciate that it’s better than zero, I don’t understand the reasoning for that either.”
Under Gruters’ bill, a vast majority of districts would see decreases in their salaries. And the board members of Florida’s most populous school districts would loose thousands in annual pay.
For example, the school board members of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties in South Florida, would lose almost $17,500 compared to their current annual salary of $47,189, a Phoenix analysis found.
That cut of $17,500 would also apply to Orange and Hillsborough counties.
The more-rural school districts, many located in the Northeast-Panhandle area of Florida, are paid less, according to the state data.
Under SB 1300, 18 school boards could see an increase in pay, according the Phoenix analysis.
State Rep. Sam Garrison, a male Republican who represents part of Clay County, is on his second attempt to fully cut school board member salaries.
Under his bill, HB 1467, school board members would serve without compensation.
Garrison introduced a similar bill in the 2021 legislative session, proposing that cutting the salaries of school board members could help remove “political squabbling” out of a “non-partisan” and “limited-oversight” position, the Phoenix previously reported.
That bill from 2021 did not survive.
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