Saturday, September 22, 2018

Proposal to end Florida school board member pay voted down in Constitution Revision Commission committee, again

For a second time, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission education committee has killed a proposal to end school board member salaries.

Committee members in the majority argued that the change could eliminate the diversity of people able to serve, particularly in poor and rural counties. Memorializing such a move in the constitution would limit the state's ability to make fixes if that proved to be the case, said vice chairwoman Nicole Washington, a Florida A&M University trustee.

The issue deserves exploration, said commissioner Tom Grady, a State Board of Education member and former lawmaker. But it is one "that the Legislature can currently deal with, without a constitutional amendment."

The panel took this stance even with sponsor Erika Donalds' offer to amend it by allowing for stipends and travel reimbursement for board members, which did not appear in the original version.

That amendment passed, but the full proposal did not.

It was the second time the concept came before the committee. The first time, a majority on the committee also rejected the idea, but because of a technicality, Donalds was permitted to revisit the vote.

Rich Templin of the AFL-CIO was among a handful of speakers to question whether the procedure violated commission rules. The committee did not directly respond, but it ended up with the same result.

Its vote came after several speakers from the public, most of whom are sitting school board members or superintendents, spoke against the proposal.

"If you cannot work for free, you cannot be a school board member with this proposal," St. Johns County superintendent Tim Forson told the committee, raising an issue that resonated with several members.

One speaker, Indian River County School Board chairman Shawn Frost, offered the only support from the public. He agreed with Donalds, a fellow member of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, that the money used to compensate board members would be better spent on student education.

"There are positive motives here behind this proposal," Frost said.

The discussion lasted nearly two hours, well past the time set aside in a meeting that had eight other proposals on the agenda. Chairwoman Marva Johnson said the committee would discuss but not vote on those items, giving members time to consider the input before deciding on them at a future session.

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