School board contention reignites with proposal of member term limits

by | Jan 7, 2022


 

School board meetings continue to be a Floridian political battleground ahead of the 2022 midterms, as a proposal filed by Senator Dennis Baxley (Congressional District 12) Thursday evening seeks to impose 8-year term limits for county school board members.

Senate Proposal 1664 (SJR 1664), if approved by Congress, would appear on November ballots as a referendum vote as the act would necessitate a state constitutional amendment. Similar bills have been proposed in the Capitol in prior years, though they all died in delegations.

“A person may not appear on the ballot for reelection to the office of school board member if, by the end of his or her current term of office, the person will have served, or but for resignation would have served, in that office for eight consecutive years,” says the text of the proposal.

Currently, Nevada is the only state to enforce school board member term limits, where they are held to 12-year maximums. 2 states, Louisiana and Colorado, are allowed to enact local term limits per their state constitution, though most counties in both states have either chosen against or voted against maintaining the policy. Florida is one of 15 states that already allow local officials, including school board members, to be term-limited if approved by voters. This option is currently available in Florida only to counties that have adopted home rule charters and was upheld in 2012 by the state Supreme Court inTelli v. Broward County.

A recent study conducted by the Miami-Dade Public School System, prepared through their Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Grants, and Community Engagement suggests that continuity between tenured board members and high-achieving districts is directly correlated.

“Stable leadership and low board turnover have been linked with effectiveness, including an analysis of high-achieving districts finding that most board members had a tenure of at least 10 years. Such findings imply that term limits are not a silver bullet to improve schools,” says the study. “Likewise, a statistically significant relationship has been found between high board turnover and declining student achievement, as turnover can undermine long-term reforms. In large districts like Miami-Dade, now A-rated, boards oversee multiple long-term initiatives.”

Some politicians, such as Senator Shevrin Jones, opines that term limit legislature has run its course.

“I believe in term limits, but I also believe that this continued attack on our school boards is a game that I am not willing to get involved in. I think the legislature has made it clear that they don’t want this and I think we should let dead things stay dead,” said Jones.

Regulation of school districts is anticipated to be one of the hottest topics during the upcoming legislative cycle. Similar proposals to SJR 1664 include partisan school board races, the implementation of cameras in classrooms, and the prohibition of certain curricula like Critical Race Theory in public schools.

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