Partisan school boards measure on way to 2024 ballot as Senate approves

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Florida voters will get the option to move to officially partisan elections for school board members on the November 2024 ballot, after the Senate voted in favor of HJR 31.

The 29-11 vote fell mostly along party lines, with Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando the only Democrat to side with Republicans in support. Many Democrats argued making the races partisan will allow divisive party politics to seep into the classroom.

“Political fights and wars they become very divisive, they become distractions,” said Sen. Rosalind Osgood, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat. “I’m just very, very concerned about creating a more toxic environment for our kids.”

But Republicans defended the measure as a way to give voters more information and allow candidates to tell voters where they align, instead of the current campaign tactics that only hint — often misleadingly — at their party affiliation.

“I believe this policy is taking into practice what we already see happening on the ground,” said Sen. Alexis Calatayud, a Miami Republican.

The measure already passed the House on a 79-34 vote along party lines on Mar. 31. Proposed ballot measures that clear the Legislature don’t require Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature and can be placed on the upcoming general election ballot.

However, at least 60% of voters must approve of the measure for it to become law.

DeSantis has already thrown his political clout around in school board races in the previous election cycle with the restrictions on partisanship in place. Most of the slate of two dozen candidates won.

Democrats also griped the bill wouldn’t do anything to help improve schools.

“The question remains how does this make education in the state of Florida better,” said Sen. Bobby Powell, a West Palm Beach Democrat. “Broadscale, this does not make education in the state of Florida any better because we’ve got Democrats on the ballot or Republicans on the ballot.”