DeSantis keeps focus on getting GOP in Florida school boards

Politics

Governor Ron DeSantis announces a reduction of tolls for commuters during a news conference held at the Florida Department of Transportation offices in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

(NewsNation) — After almost all of the 30 school board candidates he endorsed in recent elections won their races, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis now wants to help elect more conservatives.

DeSantis announced his intentions to get more Republican representation on school boards at an event this week called “Freedom Blueprint.” A representative for the governor told NewsNation that parents, current DeSantis-backed school board members, teachers and potential future conservative school board candidates attended.

These moves to influence school board races by DeSantis are somewhat unprecedented. Local school board races are typically nonpartisan.

But at Freedom Blueprint, DeSantis said the school boards have not reflected the values of the communities “they were supposedly elected to serve.”

“We’re proud of what we were able to accomplish in the school board races in 2024,” he said. “I think this gives us an opportunity to flip some more of these boards throughout the state of Florida.”

A DeSantis effect has already been felt in several Florida school districts. NewsNation previously reported that conservative school board leaders elected this year have been removing school leaders over their handling of COVID-19 mandates. During the pandemic, DeSantis was very vocal in railing against most of the restrictions meant to stem the spread of the virus.

Republican strategist Jennifer Nassour said it’s been good to see a governor take interest in this level of elected office.

“It’s about time that Republicans figure out that this is a great way for us to build our bench of future political leaders,” she said on “Morning in America.” “Unless we have different political views on school boards, on planning boards, on your water commission, unless we have different views, we’re never going to get to the right answer. It’s always going to be the majority rule, and the smallest voices are silenced.”

Others, though, have criticized DeSantis’ involvement in school board elections. Brevard Public Schools Board member Jennifer Jenkins, a Democrat, called the governor’s education policies “extreme” and “intrusive” in an interview with NPR.

“I think, big picture, he’s creating a regime of loyalists to create a platform that he can brag about as a, quote, unquote, ‘success’ when he runs for presidency in 2024,” Jenkins told the news outlet. While it has been widely speculated that DeSantis might make a presidential bid, he has not officially announced one.

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