JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is inserting himself in local school board races here in Northeast Florida and around the state.
Political experts call it ‘unprecedented’ and some in the education realm are concerned this could make these non-partisan races the new political frontline.
It’s not completely unheard of for a Governor to endorse someone for school board, but DeSantis has endorsed at least 26 candidates, four of whom are in Northeast Florida, over the past few weeks.
Erin Skipper, running for Clay School Board’s District 1, is one of those candidates.
“COVID and the pandemic brought a lot of things to life, both medically and academically,” said Skipper.
She describes herself pro-parent, and supports the Governor’s position on masking in school.
She also supports other policies the Governor has backed, including increased transparency for learning materials and limitations on the way sexual orientation and gender identity are taught in schools.
“I knew that I could no longer sit on the sidelines anymore. I knew that I had to be the mama that had the voice for so many other parents,” said Skipper.
School board candidates were surveyed by the Governor, and those like Skipper who scored highly, earned his endorsement.
UNF Political Science Professor Dr. Michael Binder said since the races often don’t get much attention, a DeSantis endorsement could yield surprising results in November.
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“Being able to tag yourself to a well-known, popular Governor, again, targeting Republicans, I’m not sure you want to send that mailer to Democrats, but it certainly could be a benefit,” said Binder.
But Andrew Spar, head of the state’s largest teachers union, is worried about the Governor inserting himself in the non-partisan races because many of the positions the Governor is seeking in candidates tend to be some on some of the most polarizing issues.
“They’re trying to drive a wedge between that sacred bond that exists between parents and students and so we should be trying to work together and that’s not a political agenda,” said Spar.
DeSantis’ campaign platform lists 10 key points on education.
Among them, keeping so-called ‘woke’ ideology out of schools, increasing teacher pay and supporting parents’ rights.