Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Florida school board term limit backers jump start campaign for Amendment 8

The November general election might seem distant to many Floridians, who still await a list of candidates for many of the August primaries.

But the bottom of the ballot will be filled with more than a dozen amendments that will compete for attention with more high-profile races including U.S. senator and the state's governor. Attaining the 60 percent threshold to win approval could be an uphill climb.

That's why backers of Amendment 8 are kicking off their formal effort to promote the three-pronged education proposal now.

Constitution Revision commissioner Erika Donalds, the Collier County School Board member who sponsored the measure, announced Monday the creation of the political committee 8 is Great. She's joined by Indian River County School Board chairman Shawn Frost and Duval County School Board member Scott Shine in the effort.

All three have announced they will not seek reelection this fall. They each have been vocal conservative voices for education initiatives as participants in the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, a group that sprouted in opposition to the larger Florida School Boards Association's lawsuit challenging state tax credit scholarships.

"Amendment 8 is Great for Florida's future, and we are committed to communicating that message to all Floridians," Donalds said in a released statement. "As school board members, we are convinced that fresh ideas and diverse opportunities for innovation are essential to creating a system of public education that works for every student. When it comes to the policy necessary to deliver that change, Amendment 8 is Great!"

Amendment 8 includes three concepts — term limits for school board members, required civics literacy instruction in public schools, and authority for the Legislature to create new forms of public schools not responsive to school boards.

The bundling of the ideas, which critics have argued do not connect except for touching on education broadly, has drawn heavy censure from several groups.

Related: Three education ideas in one proposed Florida constitutional amendment earns negative reviews 

Donalds has consistently taken the lead in boosting the concepts individually and as a single amendment. She advocated for them at the Constitution Revision Commission sessions, corralling support, and also publicly through speeches and op-ed pieces in state media.

She said she's now working to build a grassroots coalition to back the proposal, calling it necessary to ensure the state can continue to respond to student needs with new education models.

Related: Florida education proposal tagged as Amendment 8 (sound familiar?) 

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