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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida Senate panel backs bill on partisan school board races

Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota
News Service of Florida
Senate sponsor Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, called it a “transparency” proposal.

If the proposal is ultimately approved by the Legislature and by voters, board candidates could run with party affiliations starting in 2026.

A proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to move to partisan school board elections in Florida continued to advance Monday in the Senate.

Members of the Senate Education PreK-12 Committee voted 6-2 to approve the proposal (SJR 94), which would go on the 2024 ballot.

If the proposal is ultimately approved by the Legislature and voters, school board candidates could run with party affiliations starting in 2026.

The state constitution currently requires nonpartisan school board races.

Senate sponsor Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, called it a “transparency” proposal.

“This is for the voter. This is for full transparency, and I can promise you that we are way past the idea that these races are nonpartisan,” Gruters said.

Opponents questioned the need for such a change.

“I don’t understand why it’s necessary. I don’t understand what benefit there is to communities,” Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boca Raton, said. “We’ve already politicized our school boards, and at this point, why would we want to do it any more?”

The proposal needs approval from the Senate Rules Committee before it could be considered by the full Senate. The full House is slated to take up an identical proposal (HJR 31) on Thursday.