Halloween is past, but scary things are still happening. Sen. Jeff Brandes, St. Petersburg, and Matt Caldwell, Ft. Myers, filed resolutions to change the Florida constitution to remake school districts.
New districts could include any contiguous area e.g. a city or a county. They would have five elected school board members who would be partisan. The city or county governing body could also govern the schools. The legislature, moreover, could abolish school districts.
The justification for the changes is to provide “flexibility” and more local control to small communities, according to the article in the Tampa Bay Times. As it is now, district organization is in the state constitution, so the legislature has little ability to change them. The consequences of changes would be far reaching. Districts could be drawn that have large social and financial impacts.
This is not the first time the idea has surfaced. In 2008, the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability issued a report on the implications of reorganizing school districts. They found:
- The size of district not related to student achievement.
- Financial issues would require a reorganization of the local taxing authority.
- Existing financial obligations and facilities would have to be renegotiated.
- The required local effort in property taxes would have to ensure that new districts would have adequate resources.
- Desegregation compliance would have to be ensured.
- Smaller district could not afford the same range of programs e.g. magnet schools and other choice programs.
- Administrative costs would increase.
A constitutional amendment requires 3/5ths of both chambers to approve as well as a 60% vote of the electorate. It is difficult to imagine that such an amendment is in the public interest. It is easy to imagine the motivation behind such a proposal.