One state senator has proposed a plan to eliminate school board members' salaries, potentially saving Florida about $10 million. However, local board members say the measure would discourage qualified individuals from running for school board and make their job impossible.
Last week, Senator Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, outlined his plan to cut school board salaries. The proposal calls for school board members to be reimbursed for their work with $100 per-meeting stipends, plus travel reimbursement, with no more than two school board meetings a month. The stipends would be capped at $2,400 a year.
The measure would save about $10 million, senate staff estimated.
School board member Jerry Taylor said such a measure would limit who would run for office and could lead to "corruption" by allowing special interest groups to control who sits on the board. “We do more than meet once or twice a month,” said Taylor. “We’re visiting schools, trying to visit teachers and seeing what’s going on in the front lines.”
He called the effort by Sen. Wise “underhanded” and “fabricated”.
Board chairwoman Julie Ulmer said Sen. Wise has a history of being very “anti-school board members.”
Taylor echoed that sentiment: “Wise has an axe to grind with school boards.”
Board member Ed daSilva said Sen. Wise does not understand the scope of a school board member’s duties, which includes not only meetings, but attending school functions, speaking with parents, teachers and students, and reading over agendas, in addition to other responsibilities.
“The job is just so intensive,” he said.
daSilva said $100 would barely cover travel expenses he occurs while visiting District schools spread out across Suwannee County.
“If this happens, it would cost us money to serve in this role,” Ulmer echoed. “It’s often thankless work and it’s so much work.”