- The House Ethics, Elections, and Open Government Subcommittee has approved a resolution proposed by Rep. Spencer Roach to make local school board races partisan.
- Under the proposed resolution, candidates for school board positions would be given the option to run as a member of a political party, with their party affiliation appearing on the ballot during the 2026 election cycle.
- Roach argues that partisan school board races would provide greater transparency regarding candidates’ positions on issues.
- Critics of the bill have expressed concerns about the disenfranchisement of NPA voters in a school board primary election and the potential for school board members to lean into biases and lose objectivity.
The House Ethics, Elections, and Open Government Subcommittee granted approval on Wednesday to a proposed resolution introduced by Rep. Spencer Roach, which aims to modify the State Constitution to render local school board races partisan.
According to the proposal, candidates for school board positions would be given the option to run as a member of a political party, with their party affiliation appearing on the ballot during the 2026 election cycle.
In defense of the proposal, Roach argued that partisan school board races would provide greater transparency regarding candidates’ positions on issues. He cited the example of Mary Fischer, a twelve-year school board member in Lee County who ran as a non-partisan candidate before retiring last year. Roach claimed that voters were unsure of Fischer’s stance on the ballot throughout her tenure.
“If you truly desire to vote for nonpartisan candidates, if you truly desire to vote for folks who have not pledged allegiance to party ideology or dogma, then you should support this bill,” said Roach. “Right now you don’t know who those NPA candidates are on the ballot. [This bill] would allow voters to identify on the ballot who those NPA candidates are and make that choice if they truly don’t want to vote for a person who has allegiances to one of the major parties.
Committee members critical of the bill, including Rep. Jennifer Harris, expressed concerns pertaining to the eligibility of NPA candidates in primary races. Roach confirmed that unaffiliated candidates would be precluded from running in primary elections, but made the argument that the large constituents of NPA registered voters in the state would render the issue null.
“The registration numbers for NPA are outpacing both Democrats and Republicans,” said Roach. “I do think that is a growing and expanding movement, and just because it may be true today that NPA candidates may not be sufficient in turning out folks to support them, that may not always be the case.”
Concerns also emerged about the disenfranchisement of NPA voters in a school board primary election. According to Harris, excluding the state’s largest group of voters from participating in a key democratic process would only enhance the significance of partisan candidates. She also argued that having school board members separated from party allegiance allows for a more holistic approach to current events. For those reasons, Harris stated that she would not be voting in favor of Roach’s legislation.
“We need to make sure the people who are representing the parents, teachers, and students in those situations are not coming from a partisan direction, but what is best for those teachers and parents,” said Harris. “The people that go before the school board need to know that they are not going to lean into a bias and step out and be more objective.”
Supporters of the resolution contended that it would add transparency to local elections, granting voters the ability to properly gauge how potential school board officials would approach and delegate on particular issues.
“The reality is that these are already partisan races,” said Rep. Chase Tramont. “Who you associate with as your party serves to inform people of where you stand on issues.”
Following a debate session, the bill was reported favorably by the subcommittee.
In Florida, a resolution requires the support of 60 percent of voters in order to pass. If brought to the ballots, this threshold must be met. Currently, school board elections in Florida follow a non-partisan structure, meaning that political party affiliation does not appear next to a candidate’s name on the ballot. This format was implemented to promote a student-focused approach to decision-making within the education system, free from political considerations.
Roach, who represents House District 76 in Fort Myers, unsuccessfully filed a similar measure during the 2022 Legislative Session. A companion bill was filed in the Senate earlier in December by Sen. Joe Gruters. Gruters’ bill will be heard by the Ethics and Elections, Education Pre-K -12, and Rules committees in the coming weeks.