DeSantis-Backed School Boards Flex Power to Oust District LeadersBreaking News
tags: Florida, academic freedom, critical race theory
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis put his weight behind dozens of conservative school board candidates across Florida during the midterms. Now they’re in office — and are purging some educational leaders who enforced Covid-19 mandates.
New board members in two GOP-leaning counties essentially sacked their school superintendents over the span of one week. The ousters were spurred by how the superintendents carried out local policies like efforts to support the rights of parents, an issue inflamed by schools imposing student mask mandates last fall in defiance of DeSantis.
And while not tied to the 2022 election, the school board in Broward County earlier this month fired its superintendent through an effort led by five members appointed by DeSantis. All combined, school boards with ties to DeSantis pushed out three superintendents in November alone — and each of them served over districts that implemented student mask mandates.
“We had a wave in school districts that spit in parents’ faces,” said state Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), who earlier this year sought to punish schools with mask mandates. “And now the people who did that are gone.”
In Brevard and Sarasota counties, embattled school leaders have faced immediate pressure from newly-installed board members and offered to leave voluntarily rather than risk a vote on their terminations.
The boards in both counties now have conservative majorities who sought a change in leadership immediately after the midterms. Although school boards are nonpartisan posts, lines between Democratic and Republican candidates were drawn in many counties through endorsements from each party as well as outside groups. The newly-elected board members in these cases support parental rights while opposing critical race theory and teaching gender orientation in schools.
DeSantis in particular used his clout to endorse more than two dozen school board candidates during the 2022 election cycle, a rare move for a Florida governor that came with $1,000 cash contributions from DeSantis and other GOP lawmakers. Most of the candidates DeSantis endorsed won their elections and are now transforming the make-up of school district leadership and will have huge influence over policies affecting hundreds of thousands of students in the state.
Both Sarasota and Brevard’s school boards put the superintendents on the chopping block the same day that new members endorsed by DeSantis and conservative organizations like Moms for Liberty were sworn into office.