Florida voters may decide next year on constitutional amendment to make school board elections partisan

The Florida House of Representatives on March 31 voted 79-34 along partisan lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed, to pass House Joint Resolution 31. HJR 31 would amend the state constitution to make school board elections partisan.

School board members in Florida are elected by the voters of the county and serve four-year terms. Currently, voters elect five or more members in a nonpartisan election. Each county makes up a school district, unless two neighboring counties have voted to combine school districts.

The school board controls school property, establishes, organizes, and operates the schools of the district, including establishing schools, adopting enrollment plans, providing for school elimination and consolidation, cooperating with school boards of adjoining districts in maintaining schools, maintaining the school year schedule, and other more specific duties as outlined in Florida statutes.

State Rep. Spencer Roach (R), the sponsor of the amendment, said, “This is not about, at least for me, advancing the cause of one political party over another. But for me it’s about transparency, and I simply believe that we have an obligation to give voters as much information about a candidate as possible, and let them make a decision about vetting a candidate. I would tell folks, if they truly want to vote for nonpartisan candidates, those candidates in Florida who are NPAs that don’t have a philosophical association with either of the two major parties and they (voters) viewed them as sort of purist NPAs — right now in Florida, the law prevents you from doing that, because you don’t know who that candidate is.”

State Rep. Angie Nixon (D), said, “I believe this bill is not about transparency at all. This bill is about making our school-board elections and our school boards more contentious, more like D.C., which [Republicans] honestly always try to oppose.”

Florida has a Republican trifecta. The Republican Party controls the office of governor and both chambers of the state legislature. If passed in the Senate, the amendment would be placed on the 2024 ballot. To be approved by voters, a 60% vote is required. If approved, the amendment would take effect during the 2026 school board elections.

Additional reading:

Florida school board

State government trifectas