Partisan school board elections head to full Florida House

Florida voters would decide whether to hold partisan school-board elections under a proposed constitutional amendment that is ready to go before the full House. 

The House Education & Employment Committee voted 15-5 on Tuesday to approve the proposal (HJR 31). School-board races currently are required by the state Constitution to be non-partisan. Under the bill, voters would be asked in 2024 to pass a constitutional amendment to move to partisan elections. 

If the amendment passes, partisan school-board races would begin in 2026. Democrats on the panel questioned why the proposed change is needed. Sponsor Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, argued the proposal would give voters the most information possible about candidates. 

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Tuesday approved an identical proposal (SJR 94), sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota. The Senate proposal needs approval from two more committees before it could go to the full Senate. Some school-board races have become high-profile contests in recent years amid battles about issues such as mask requirements aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis, for example, took the rare step of endorsing a slate of dozens of school-board candidates before the November elections, most of whom went on to claim victories.