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Florida Moves One Step Closer to Partisan School Board Elections

A fiercely debated resolution that would require school board candidates to reveal their party affiliation has advanced in the Senate’s Education Pre-K-12 Committee.

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — One of this legislative session’s most contentious bills is one step closer to becoming law. Republican senators voted unanimously for implementing partisan school board elections.

Along with its companion bill in the House, HJR 31, SJR 94 passed along party lines with Republicans voting in favor of the bill and Democrats voting against it.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota/Manatee), the bill aims to bring transparency back to voters. “This bill is all about giving voters as much info as possible,” Gruters explained as he introduced the bill.

Several audience members spoke in opposition to the resolution, including a handful of PTA members, who argued that making school board elections partisan would politicize the entire process. “I don’t want a voter to go to the polls and base their educational choices on someone’s political affiliation,” one PTA member exclaimed.

Her sentiments were echoed by a second PTA board member who emphasized that school board elections should focus on good policymaking and helping our children, not allegiance to either party. “Why invite such conflict into our schools?” she asked.

Public testimony was followed by debate between senators, during which time Sen. Lori Berman (D-Palm Beach) emphasized her opposition to the bill. “I just don’t think this is necessary… I can’t support the bill in this form. I don’t understand why we want to take this step at this time,” she said.

Sen. Gruters concluded by stressing the purpose behind this bill. “This bill is all about transparency. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to do this. But in reality, these races have been partisan for a long time. This is for the voter,” he said.

Following today’s meeting, SJR 94 heads to the Senate Rules Committee, where it is also expected to pass along party lines.