The Phoenix Flyer

Lawmakers are trying to limit how long local school board members can serve

By: - February 6, 2019 3:37 pm

School entrance sign. Photo, CD Davidson-Hiers

How long should an elected official serve on a school board in Florida?

That’s been an ongoing debate that won’t end soon.

Last fall, the Florida Supreme Court knocked an education-related state Constitutional Amendment off the ballot, eliminating several proposals, including term limits for school board members.

But the term limit issue is back –in the form of resolution that’s already advancing in the Florida Legislature.

A subcommittee in the state House of Representatives approved a joint resolution Wednesday to ask Florida voters to approve a new state Constitutional amendment that would put school board term limits on the ballot in the next general election or earlier.

School board members would be limited to eight consecutive years in office. The provision would apply to terms of office on or after Nov. 3, 2020.

The resolution must go through several more legislative steps to get final approval, but the debate is already started.

All members of the committee said yes to the resolution on Wednesday, though some shared thoughts on possibly changing the wording.

Democrat State Reps. Anna Eskamani (representing part of Orange County), Delores Hogan Johnson (part of St. Lucie) and Jennifer Webb (part of Pinellas) discussed whether eight years is enough time to serve.

Webb, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said studies reflect that 12 years may be best when it comes to term limits for school board members.

School board members have important duties that require knowledge and experience, according to the National School Boards Association. They adopt school policies and curriculum and oversee the district’s budget, which can be hefty in large counties. They also employ superintendents and adopt union agreements for teachers and other employees.

In Florida, school board members do get paid, with salaries ranging from the mid to high $20,000s to about $45,000, according to 2018-19 state figures from the Florida Legislature.

But proponents of eight-year term limits argue that school board members shouldn’t become career politicians seeking money, power and perpetual employment. And serving too long could cause stagnation and less innovation.

Many other government officials are already subjected to term-limits in Florida, but not school board members.

Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who represents part of Lake County, is the sponsor of the joint resolution.

After the committee approved his resolution, Sabatini told the Florida Phoenix he is opposed to amending the eight years outlined in the measure.

“I staunchly, staunchly, staunchly oppose 12 years,” Sabatini said.





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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.