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Florida parents deserve choices for school board, lawmakers say

They don’t necessarily agree on what that choice means, though.
State senators Dennis Baxley, left, and Bill Montford, right, have differing views on legislation to ask voters whether to impose limits on school board member terms. [The Florida Channel]
State senators Dennis Baxley, left, and Bill Montford, right, have differing views on legislation to ask voters whether to impose limits on school board member terms. [The Florida Channel]

A bill that would ask voters whether they want to impose term limits on Florida’s school board members continues to advance in the state Legislature, with another Senate committee voting narrowly Monday to support the measure.

The issue, lawmakers said, in many ways boils down to a matter of choice.

But they weren’t talking about the same thing.

Sen. Dennis Baxley, who sponsored a similar measure in 2019, introduced the legislation to the Senate Education Committee as a way to create more competitive elections.

“The power of incumbency is well known,” the Ocala Republican said, suggesting that many potentially interested candidates do not run because they worry about the uphill battle of challenging a long-term incumbent.

That’s unfair to the voters, Baxley said, implying that term limits would open the doors. “People do want choices.”

Sen. Bill Montford, the committee’s ranking Democrat, agreed that families deserve options. But he didn’t mean the same thing that Baxley was talking about.

The former Leon County schools superintendent made clear he considered removing names from the ballot simply based on years of service was limiting. He suggested that supporters of term limits only want choice when it suits them.

He brought up the idea the variety of academic options provided to families, such as charters and tax credit scholarships and home schooling, and said those have made education better for many students.

“We truly believe that parents can make the best choices for their children," Montford said. "I think those same parents can make the best choice for who will represent them on the school board.”

He joined the two other Democrats on the eight-member panel in opposing the legislation, for which the rest of the commentary remained largely the same as in past years and previous committee stops.

Related: Florida lawmakers renew push for school board term limits

The Senate version next heads to the Rules Committee, where the concept died a year ago. A companion bill is moving through the House.

If approved by three-fifths of each chamber, the question of limiting school board terms to eight consecutive years would go to voters statewide in November.

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