HB 1155 by Rep. Eisnaugle is a hostile payback directed at the Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) for joining others to sue the state over the legality of using diverted public funds for private school vouchers. The bill unfairly bans the organization from accessing dues and other monies to fund litigation to defend the constitutional authority of its duly elected members. According to committee appearance cards, the only folks in favor of this bill are the Koch Brothers/Americans for Prosperity, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future and the Betsy DeVos/John Kirtley pro-voucher super PAC, the Florida Federation for Children.
The bill passed in the House and its companion SB 1426 is on second reading in the Senate. This is another example of how Tallahassee disrespects our locally elected officials. Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature has made a national show of refusing to follow Federal dictates. These same politicians claim to respect voters right to “local control” while running bills every year meant to erode the power of elected positions closest to the people.
As the Tampa Bay Times reported:
Rep. Joseph Geller, D-Aventura — a former mayor of North Bay Village — called it “unduly restrictive” to local elected officials. “It seems to me that if somebody who’s been elected by the public to serve at the school board level … thinks that their duty is to disagree or contest something and they think that’s in the best interest of the parents and the children of their district, we shouldn’t be telling them, ‘No, they can’t,’ ” Geller said.
The general talking points repeated by legislators and proponents such as Jeff Bergosh whose six-member Florida Coalition of School Board Members was created last year as opposition to the FSBA are:
- Once the Florida Legislature passes a law, that’s final
- The membership of the FSBA whose dues come from school boards funded by public tax dollars must not be allowed as a group to use assets to question laws
- This bill guarantees that when it comes to school boards, courts won’t decide public policy. Only the legislature is empowered to do that.
The problem is that the Florida Legislature, Koch Brothers and Jeb’s free-market “education reform” foundations have re-defined “local” to mean Tallahassee. This is power grab 101. Stripping constitutional officers of the means to sue the state muzzles the voice of every Florida citizen. That’s not democracy.
A version of this post appeared in the Orlando Sentinel’s Central Florida 100