Florida School Board Association drops national membership as Republicans consider making local council races partisan

Florida Republicans want voters to overturn a 1998 constitutional amendment that created non-partisan school board races. School boards have come under fire, more recently, for negative reactions to school closings, the wearing of masks, and teachings about history, racism and gender identity.

“There seems to be a movement going on to remove school board members, groups coming together to ‘get them out’. And there is a strong hostility towards them and that really bothers me a lot,” Sen Tina said. Polsky, D-Boca Raton, at a recent hearing on the proposal.

Polsky opposes the proposal by Republican Senator and State GOP Chairman Joe Gruters to ask voters to make school board elections partisan again. Gruters says school board races have become increasingly political – and he thinks it’s time for races to make it clear where candidates stand on issues so voters have more transparency.

“Sometimes, even when you have a candidate of a certain political conviction, you don’t always get the result you want… but it at least gives you the impression that if he joins a certain party, these beliefs and core values ​​that you share should be there when they make those votes, ”said Gruters.

During the pandemic, local council meetings escalated into chaos with groups of angry parents demanding that members resign over school closures, mask wear – and how racism and its role in it. history are taught.

“I’m not sure the names of people like R or D necessarily label them,” said Senator Lori Berman, D-Palm Beach. “I don’t see why you think it will lead to less acrimony because I think we already know there is acrimony … people will be more angry with someone who is a republican who does not vote as they wish.

“I don’t think they are laughing at their party to see what is in the best interests of a child. Their fundamental belief is that we must do what is in the best interests of children, not politics, ”said Dawn Steward of Florida PTA.

She, along with most school boards and the Women’s League voters, is opposed to the races being partisan. One argument against the bill is that those registered without party affiliation would be excluded from partisan primaries. One third of registered voters are listed as NPA. The solution for this is simple at Michael Johnson of Altamonte Springs. He says if people want to vote in partisan races, they should choose sides.

“School boards are running the elections now. Moms are mad with anger at values ​​that are not taught in our schools now… We look at the list of school board members, we do not know if they are Communists, Sharia believers or if they believe in the Constitution the United States. When a Republican name or a Democratic vote, we have a clearer black and white situation. ”

Several Florida school boards clashed with the state over mandatory mask policies for students, with Governor Ron DeSantis ultimately winning the legal fights. The boards were also criticized after the National School Boards Association wrote a letter to the Department of Justice asking for help in cracking down on threats made against board members. This letter made matters worse, as the national group likened some of the parents’ actions to domestic terrorism. The Florida School Boards Association recently terminated its membership in the National Group.

“We had a number of concerns, including questions and concerns about governance, leadership, transparency and the failure to embrace impartiality,” said Chief Executive Officer Andrea Messina.

The evil is already done. At least one proposal has been tabled to restrict the way school districts educate on these matters.

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