Thursday, June 21, 2018

Florida GOP candidates for governor weigh in on school board term limits. (They like them.)

A measure to limit Florida school board member terms has gained the support of the two men seeking the Republican nomination to become the state's next governor.

They did not weigh in, though, on the other two provisions the concept is tied to as it heads to the November ballot.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Jacksonville Republican in his third term, isn't one to talk much about Florida-specific issues.

He did, however, take time to publicize his position on school board term limits, perhaps the most popular of the three ideas in the constitutional amendment. It also asks voters to require civics literacy program in public schools, and to allow the Legislature to create new education models outside the control of local school boards.

"No elected office, whether federal or local, is ever better off when run by career politicians," DeSantis, a three-term House member from Jacksonville, wrote in a piece for the U.S. Term Limits website.

"That's why I support eight-year term limits for all school board members," continued DeSantis, who also has sponsored legislation to limit Congressional terms. "I am confident this proposal would bring new energy and ideas to school boards, which too often suffer from the same untamed incumbency that paralyzes Congress."

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, by most accounts a the candidate more likely to focus on policy details, shared that point of view.

"If term limits are good enough for the governor and the Legislature, they're good enough for school boards," Putnam said via email.

Supporters of Amendment 8, the Constitution Revision Commission's education-focused ballot question, have focused attention on the term limits portion. The new political committee backing the measure this week referred to the proposal in its press release as being about "school board term limits and other K-12 policy."

It's that "other" part that has opponents most concerned.

They have taken to social media to complain that the section "amending Section 4 of Article IX of the State Constitution to specify which schools are operated, controlled, and supervised by a school board" could establish a second level of public schools run without local control, with appointed boards based in Tallahassee or elsewhere.

The original language, before the Constitution Revision Commission amended it, spoke directly of a state charter school authorizer. Only later did the commission change the wording to be more general.

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