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Should Florida school board members have term limits?

A proposal before the Constitutional Revision Commission would limit board membership to eight consecutive years.
Pinellas County School Board member Linda Lerner is in her seventh term. A new proposal would limit board members to two terms. [Times | 2015]
Pinellas County School Board member Linda Lerner is in her seventh term. A new proposal would limit board members to two terms. [Times | 2015]
Published Oct. 30, 2017

Current Florida law limits the length of service for lawmakers, governors and even State Board of Education members.

School Board members face no such restrictions. But Erika Donalds, a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, thinks they should.

Donalds, who sits on the Collier County School Board, has filed a proposed constitutional amendment to allow board members to serve no longer than eight consecutive years. That length would include the amount of time a member would have served on a board if they resign early, as well.

Donalds, who also has filed a proposal to end board member pay, has argued that school board service should not be a career. New ideas need to cycle through districts to keep them fresh, she has suggested.

At the same time, though, such a change would eliminate some of the historical knowledge that some board members bring to the table and often share with newer colleagues who join. The Pinellas County School Board, for example, would never again have a seven-term veteran and a first-termer working together as it has now.

If approved by the Constitution Revision Commission, the proposal still would require voter support.

Donalds, who said she came to the commission to do bold things, has submitted another education-related recommendation in advance of Tuesday's proposal deadline. In this one, she lays the groundwork for lawmakers to expand school choice options.

She would add wording to indicate that all students have the "opportunity" to receive a high quality public education, whereas the current language says the system will allow students to get that high quality education. She further would amend the section to read, "Nothing herein may be construed to limit the legislature from making provision for other educational services that benefit the children and families of this state that are in addition to the system of free public schools."

A third newly filed education-related amendment proposal would set stricter requirements for university board of trustees to increase tuition and fees. Commissioner Nicole Washington, a Florida A&M trustee, would mandate at least nine university trustees and 12 Board of Governors members approve those added costs.

The Constitution Revision Commission has until May to determine what items it will place before voters on the November 2018 ballot.