Florida Democratic Party rolls out list of school board endorsements

by | Aug 2, 2022

 

  • The Florida Democratic Party on Tuesday announced eighteen local school board candidate endorsements across the state 
  • The move comes weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis published his own batch of endorsements
  • Democrat gubernatorial candidate Rep. Charlie Crist also announced a series of school board candidate endorsements alongside his educational platform 
  • The move marks the first time the Florida Democratic Party made endorsements in a local non-partisan educational election

Manny Diaz, Chair of the Florida Democratic Party, took to Twitter on Tuesday to unveil the party’s list of eighteen endorsements of local school board candidates.

Coming weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis gradually approved his own set of 29 school board candidates, the endorsements mark the first public approval of candidates for local education raced by the party. Diaz criticized the governor for turning school board elections into “new political battlegrounds,” offering preferred choices to publicize a snapshot of the Florida Democratic Party’s educational platform.

DeSantis’ likely gubernatorial primary opponent, Rep. Charlie Crist,  last week publicly endorsed seven school board candidates across Florida. The move came less than 24 hours after Crist announced his education agenda that includes provisions to declare a teacher shortage, invest more in teacher pay, and increase per-student spending. The initiative plays antagonist to DeSantis’ educational policies and serves as a setup for an eventual point of contention between the two.

“Under [Ron DeSantis] and Republicans, public education in Florida is in trouble. While DeSantis turned school board elections into new political battlegrounds and focused on his personal partisan politics, only 25 percent of third-graders are demonstrating proficient reading levels,” said Diaz in a tweet. “Less than half of high school students perform at a satisfactory level or better in algebra. Florida ranks 43rd in the nation for education funding, 48th in the nation for average teacher salary, and is facing an almost 10,000-teacher shortage ahead of the coming school year.”

The Florida Democratic Party’s endorsements include eighteen candidates across thirteen counties. Diaz stated on Twitter that the selection of candidates encompasses a collection ideology of those that believe “public education is the bedrock of the American dream.”

“I am proud to endorse these committed public servants who will serve as champions for our public schools, parents, teachers, and students,” continued Diaz.

In the gubernatorial race, the two candidates — Crist and DeSantis — are jockeying themselves to represent opposite sides of the educational binary. While DeSantis seeks the eradication of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and gender or sexual education from early elementary curricula, Crist advocates for the reinstating of local autonomy of school districts, enabling each district to approve or deny learning plans at their discretion, which may or may not include elements of CRT.

Political battles over COVID-19 limits, curriculum limitations, and parents’ roles in their children’s education have centered on school boards, with DeSantis taking on such issues for his re-election campaign. The governor has taken several steps to impose his vision of education on Florida schools, including his recent signings of the Parental Rights in Education bill, the Parents’ Bill of Rights, and the ‘Stop WOKE Act.’

The Florida Democratic Party’s endorsements include: 

Alachua County:

  • Sarah Rockwell
  • Prescott Cowles
  • Diyonne McGraw 
  • Tina Certain

Brevard County:

  • Kimberly Hough

Escambia County

  • Ray Guillory

Hillsborough County

  • Damaris Allen
  • Karen Perez

Indian River County:

  • Cindy Gibbs

Lee County:

  • Gwynetta Gittens

Miami-Dade County:

  • Maribel Balbin

Osceola County:

  • Teresa “Terry ” Castillo

Pinellas County

  • Brian Martin

Polk County:

  • Sara Estelle Jones

Santa Rosa County:

  • Gregory Seltzer

St. Johns County:

  • Lauren Townsend Abell

Volusia County:

  • Ruben Colon
  • Justin Kennedy 

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