A bill that would eliminate salaries for school board members and increase scrutiny of the way public-school instructional materials and library books are chosen is now primed for consideration by the full House. The measure (HB 1467) is largely centered on increasing parents’ involvement in the selection of books and other learning materials.
The bill requires that any committees convened for the purpose of “ranking, eliminating, or selecting” instructional materials must also include parents. The House Appropriations Committee on Monday signed off on the proposal after adding some tweaks.
An amendment adopted by the committee made clear that the part of the bill dealing with scrapping board members’ salaries would apply to members who are newly elected or re-elected on or after Aug. 1, 2022.
“The intent is to make sure that when members decide to run for the position, they know up front what the situation is with salaries,” Rep. Sam Garrison, a Fleming Island Republican who sponsored the bill, said.
The amendment also would allow board members who wouldn’t receive salaries to receive “reimbursements” of up to $200 for each meeting they attend, up to a maximum of $4,800 per year. Democrats on the panel bristled at capping board members’ yearly compensation at less than $5,000.
“We can’t throw money at problems, but we obviously can pay someone a living wage. And I don’t believe that what we’re offering to pay someone in the amendment is a living wage for the amount of meetings (they) have,” Rep. Matt Willhite, D-Wellington, said.
But Garrison disagreed.
“I would take issue with the notion of talking about this salary, such as it is, as being a living wage. It’s not designed to be. It’s about public service,” he said.
The Florida School Boards Association opposes the bill. Danielle Thomas, a lobbyist with the association, said the proposal would create “great inequalities” for school board members across the state and would favor “the elite” who could afford to work for no salary.
“School board members in Florida have chosen to take on the responsibility of overseeing the education, safety and well-being of our most precious gift — our children,” Thomas said.
A similar Senate bill (SB 1300) needs approval from the Rules Committee before it can go to the floor. The Senate measure aims to make school board members’ salaries equal to the yearly pay of state legislators. Lawmakers make $29,697 per year.