House votes to impose term limits on all school boards
Florida Politics | By A.G. Gancarski | February 10, 2022
Term limits would begin in 2030, however.
Along party lines, the Florida House voted 78-40 Thursday to impose term limits on all school boards in the state.
CS/HB 1467, introduced originally by Rep. Sam Garrison, would cut salaries for school board members newly elected or re-elected after August 2022.
That term limit would start with time served this year, so veteran members of boards would have eight years from the date of their 2022 elections, in an amendment adopted Wednesday in the House. That amendment replaced a provision that would have cut school board salaries.
The bill was passed over strong Democratic opposition.
“It’s complicated work. You have to have dedication,” explained Rep. Susan Valdes of Tampa, a former School Board Member arguing against term limits.
Those who want to run again, Garrison advised Wednesday when the House was discussing the legislation, can “take a cycle off and come back.” However, they have eight years ahead before that becomes a real concern.
Despite the change of one major section of the bill, other parts remain the same as they did in committees.
The bill will retain its focus on “K-12 transparency” and content “guardrails” for school districts as they deal with potentially problematic materials, another sticking point for Democrats in structured debate.
The bill will still require school districts to list all library and instructional materials in use in an online inventory, with a multistep review process before adoption, including a mandatory public hearing.
Boards, said Garrison Wednesday, “would have to use their best judgment” in assessing complaints and determining action. Action that is taken would have to be reported to the state Department of Education, Garrison noted.
“This superstructure, I think it’s top-heavy,” asserted Rep. Joe Geller, bemoaning it as another layer of the same “bureaucracy” Republicans complain about.
Geller suggested the law could be a “nightmare for school districts,” if so-called “flat earthers” mobilized in favor of driving book bans.
Rep. Anna Eskamani blasted the proposal as an attempt to ban books and silence the narratives of marginalized populations, saying these issues should be kept local and that the House should not “co-opt” it with a “Parents’ Bill of Rights” style solution.
“LGBTQ students need to be able to see themselves in books,” asserted Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who described his own struggle to “see himself” in any books available during his childhood in the 1990s.
Eskamani, Smith and others warned that national pressure groups could use this database and bill as a cudgel to erase the very identities and existences of groups traditionally underrepresented.
“Book banning does not happen in free states or free societies,” Smith warned.
Garrison, in his close, invoked Lewis Carroll’s 19th century “Through the Looking Glass,” saying Democrats were distorting the intent of the bill.
Companion legislation is not currently moving in the Senate.