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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill nixing school board salaries makes it into committee



A proposal to scrap salaries for school board members got its first public airing Tuesday when it was introduced into the Florida Senate's education committee.

Though the bill -- put forth by Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville -- did not come up for a vote, it drew a robust audience to the hearing. Three people spoke against the measure, including Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association.

He warned that doing away with salaries would reduce the presence of minorities on school boards and increase the power of special interests. Blanton also questioned the timing of the bill, saying members have worked closely with lawmakers over the past few years on budget cuts and reforms such as teacher merit pay.

"I believe this would divide us," Blanton said.

Florida is not like other states such as California and New York, which have more than 800 school districts each, he added. Florida has 67 larger, countywide districts; 24 of the country's 100 largest districts are in Florida, according to Blanton.

Wise said he is willing to work with opponents on the bill. But he fundamentally believes in eliminating salaries, he noted, saying trustees at the University of Florida, for example, don't get paid.

"Maybe we'd have more people running for office that'd be interested in policy and not in operations," he said. "You get elected to serve the people and make good policy -- and it's not a full-time job, in my opinion."

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 1:49pm]


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