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Proposal to end school board pay heads back to Florida Constitution Revision Commission

The commission's Education Committee was poised to reject the idea in November.
Collier School Board member Erika Donalds promoted three amendments to alter the governance of Florida's school districts at the Nov. 27, 2017, Florida Constitution Revision Education Committee meeting. [The Florida Channel]
Published Jan. 16, 2018

A controversial proposal to end school board members' pay in Florida returns to the Constitution Revision Commission's Education Committee on Friday, so far with no amendments proposed.

The recommendation, which comes from Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds, appeared to have died in the committee's Nov,. 27 meeting. A majority of the panel voted against it, but forgot to ask for Donalds' vote, which would have brought the tally to a tie — still a defeat in government.

During the second vote, however, Donalds asked to table the motion, effectively giving it a new life. She said she would consider revising the proposal to make it more palatable to members who contended it would too dramatically limit the ranks of potential candidates, particularly in small, rural counties.

Board members in some of those communities seconded those concerns during the Florida School Boards Association conference in December. The smaller Florida Coalition of School Board Members, of which Donalds is immediate past president, meanwhile cheered the idea as a way to stop people from making a career of service, along with a second proposal to limit board members to two consecutive terms.

Lawmakers have separately filed term limit legislation, as a backstop in case the commission does not approve placing Donalds' items on the November ballot.

The FSBA has since sent out an "advocacy alert" to spur its members to action against the pay plan, arguing that — in addition to diversity concerns — school board members are constitutional officers with more responsibilities than counterparts in other states, where they do not have such weighty roles.

If the proposal were to pass, the FSBA noted, school board members would become Florida's only unpaid constitutional officers. See the FSBA's position paper for more details.

The CRC Education Committee also is slated to take up eight other proposals when it meets Friday in Tallahassee. Among them:

Proposal 4 and Proposal 45 would end the constitutional ban on using state tax dollars in support of education services provided by religious institutions.

Proposal 71 would allow for the creation of an alternate charter school authorizer. Past efforts to establish such an entity were found unconstitutional, on the grounds that the constitution states school boards "operate, control and supervise" all public schools in their districts.

Proposal 89 would set the state's purpose for public education as "to develop the intellect of the state's citizens, to contribute to the economy, to create an effective workforce, and to prepare students for a job."

Proposal 93 would authorize high-performing school districts to gain flexibilities currently offered to charter schools.

Two others aim to create a state governing board for community colleges. Another would set a minimum vote for the state Board of Governors to increase university tuition and fees.

Any of the proposals gaining support at the committee level would still require backing from a majority of the full commission, and then a vote of 60 percent on the November ballot.

There have been questions raised already about how many initiatives the CRC will want to forward to voters, to avoid clogging the ballot. Some people have speculated some of these ideas might be compressed into a single question under the title of "Education."

The final questions must be submitted to the Department of State by May. The CRC plans to hold more public hearings on the proposals in February and March, including one at USF-St. Petersburg on March 13.