Q&A - Should Florida Do Away With School Board Salaries?

Two Parents Of Children Killed In Parkland School Shooting Announce They're Running For School Board Seats

Photo: Getty Images

Today’s Entry: I’d like you to provide analysis regarding the proposal which would eliminate the salaries of school board members. Is there any evidence that doing so would produce better candidates and thus school board members?  

Bottom Line: After an unsuccessful effort in last year’s state legislative session to eliminate compensation for school board members in Florida, another effort is currently underway in this year’s session. The bill proposed by State Representative Sam Garrison is back with a wrinkle in this year’s session and recently passed the House Education and Employment Committee on a party-line vote. What’s different in this year’s version is how the savings would be used. The money would be redirected to hire library specialists in schools who’d be responsible for vetting books made available in libraries under state law. The idea would be for books deemed appropriate by the Florida Board of Education to be included while weeding out those deemed inappropriate.

So, about the proposal, there’s nothing unusual about volunteer school board members. In fact, what’s most unusual is having compensated school board members. According to the National School Board Association, 61% of school board members nationally aren’t compensated. In fact, not only are school board members compensated in Florida but they’re also compensated with wages that are in line with full-time teachers in their school districts.

A few years ago the state passed a law to ensure school board members’ salaries wouldn’t exceed the average teacher’s salary in their district because that’d become common. In Florida, the average school board member is paid $35,995. In South Florida, that total is higher at $47,189 for school board members in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach.

Now, there are evidenced benefits to having volunteer school board members as opposed to those who’re effectively working full-time jobs. There are some related facts from the NSBA’s study. Volunteer school board members are more likely to be retired and/or not working another job, less likely to have a child in the school district, and less likely to be a member of a teacher’s union among others.

This information is interesting though not necessarily conclusive. It does seemingly paint a picture of generally older board members who appear to be altruistic in their work though that comes with fewer members having their own children in schools. Something I do conclusively view as a positive is a lower likelihood of having teachers’ unions directly influencing the decision-making of board members. Interestingly, the only other states which pay school board members full-time salaries are Alabama, California, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia. This is to say Florida’s current setup is highly unusual.

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.  

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com 

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