Florida lawmakers looking to add party affiliations to local school board races

NBC 2 | By Dave Elias | December 7, 2022

If you thought school board races were already heated, they could potentially get a whole lot worse.

Some Republican lawmakers are pushing to change the law that would require school board candidates to declare a party since state law currently prohibits it.

Bringing politics into the classroom is certainly raising some eyebrows. In 1998, Florida voters overwhelmingly voted to make school board races non-partisan. 

Now, Republican Spencer Roach wants to change that. 

“To some extent this is an attack on woke school boards and ideology. To that, I would say you’re damn right it is,” Roach responded.

He tried during the last legislative session to pass the law requiring school board candidates to declare a party but failed.

“Voters are engaged. This has motivated voters to the polls,” Roach insisted.

His measure does have its supporters like college student Lauren Lamon, who believes declaring a party could help some voters not familiar with the candidates.

“They can kind of tell by their party alignment what their baseline beliefs are,” Lamon responded.

Other students like Alex High disagree.

“Honestly, it just brings in this bias that doesn’t need to be involved in school,” High said.

President of the Lee Teachers Union, Kevin Daly, urges caution in changing the law.

“We have to be aware that we’re educating everyone’s children and have to have all parents’ rights respected and not just those who may be in the majority in any particular county in the state,” Daly explained.

Madelyn Stewart and her husband, both retired educators, plan to form a committee to oppose Roach’s proposal.

She believes politics is taking over public schools.

“That is not what public schools are intended to be,” she insisted.

Her husband Sam is a retired New Jersey Superintendent who served in multiple school districts and opposes school board candidates declaring a party.

“I think what’s really behind this has been an attack on public schools to erode the ability to provide an education for all children,” he said.

The resolution must be approved by Florida lawmakers, and then ultimately, it has to be approved by 60% of state voters in 2024.

If both of those things happen, partisan school board races would begin in November 2026.

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