Bill aims to limit school board members to 2 terms

Map of Florida school districts
Photo courtesy: Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research

Tallahassee and the rest of Florida may see a change in their next school board elections this November.

Florida House Rep. Alex Rizo, R-Miami-Dade, has introduced House Bill 477, which would revise term limits for school board members. According to the Orlando Weekly, Gov. Ron DeSantis backs the idea.

HB 477 would change a similar bill, HB 1467, a 2022 piece of legislation that established a term limit of 12 consecutive years. Before the law went into effect, there were no term limits, and once it was established, it allowed current school board members to serve for an additional 12 years once the law was passed.

Rizo proposed that the 12-year term limit be changed to 8 years, so current members would only be able to serve two terms. He believes that it would create more regular open-seat elections, make a more independent school board, and encourage newer candidates to run.

There are many different opinions regarding the term limit change. Shanell Williams, a mother of two living in the West Palm Beach area, believes that there are both pros and cons to the bill. She initially thought it was a great idea but questioned if they were trying to get rid of long-term Democratic members to make the school boards more Republican.

“Term limits restrict the freedom of the voters to determine who they want. However, introducing term limits has the potential to reduce the ability of those entrenched in the system,” she said.

Along with Williams, Marlana Lawrence, a student and aftercare counselor at Gilchrist Elementary in Tallahassee, has a similar opinion.

“If the bill is passed, I think that this will affect different counties. It would give opportunities to others, but leadership would feel too rushed because you’re not giving them enough time to really show off their leadership,” she said.

Lawrence said she hasn’t really heard about the bill being discussed in schools, though she thinks it’s important. She doesn’t expect it to be discussed because, at least from the teachers’ and parents’ side, there aren’t many conversations pertaining to the board due to the difference in language; she considers it to be more formal.

Coming from a teacher’s perspective, Nadine Pierre, who has taught in both Georgia and Florida, believes that there are many benefits to term limits and thinks that teachers and parents would like for school board members to have them.

“Generally, school board members should have a term limit. It is beneficial as it allows for community input and change. It also allows the opportunity for people who are familiar with the community to represent their community and identify the changes needed and implemented,” she said.

Rizo’s bill is making progress as it goes through the House. After filing it in late January, it has been approved by the House’s Choice and Innovation Subcommittee and is now being reviewed in the Education and Employment Committee.