League of Women Voters

League of Women Voters to Board of Education: Just say no!

rubber-stamp-file-photo-public-domainThe man who castigated troubled schools as “failure factories” is poised to become the state’s next education commissioner, as Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis made clear he wants former House Speaker Richard Corcoran to take over the post.

While the Board of Education technically has the final say-so on the matter, there’s little doubt the panel will grant DeSantis’ wish.

Not so fast, the League of Women Voters of Florida said in a missive issued Friday afternoon.

In a letter to Board of Education Chairwoman Marva Johnson and the rest of the board, the League urged the panel to conduct a national search to find the replacement for Linda Stewart, a veteran educator whose resignation will go into effect next month.

The state Constitution makes it clear “that it is the Board of Education – not the Governor – that has the responsibility to appoint a Commissioner of Education,” the letter reads.

“At a minimum, Floridians expect you to carry out a due diligence process aimed at ensuring Florida’s students that an individual of the highest possible caliber oversees public education. We urge you to take this important duty seriously and not simply ‘rubber stamp’ a politically motivated choice,” LWV Florida president Patricia Brigham wrote in the letter.

Here’s the full letter:

Dear Chairwoman and State Board Members,
With the impending departure of Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, the League of Women Voters of Florida reminds you that as members of the State Board of Education you not only have the opportunity, but a constitutional responsibility, to conduct a national search to find the person who is best suited to oversee Florida’s system of public education.
Article IX, Section 2 of the Constitution of Florida was overwhelmingly adopted by the people of Florida in 1998. That provision created the Board of Education, consisting of seven members serving staggered terms to oversee Florida’s system of free public schools.
By enacting that provision, the people of Florida made it clear in the Constitution that it is the Board of Education — not the Governor — that has the responsibility to appoint a Commissioner of Education. Further, the Board of Education members’ terms of office were purposely staggered to ensure that as governors change, the Florida education system would be insulated from the disruption caused by political patronage appointments of a Commissioner of Education.
At a minimum, Floridians expect you to carry out a due diligence process aimed at ensuring Florida’s students that an individual of the highest possible caliber oversees public education. We urge you to take this important duty seriously and not simply “rubber stamp” a politically motivated choice.
Under our state’s current constitution, the Governor retains input to the process by filling vacancies which occur as Board Members terms expire, however, the Board must carry out its constitutional duty and make appointments based upon merit, not political patronage. While members of the Board may ultimately concur with the recommendation of the incoming Governor regarding who to appoint, the Board of Education should decline to opt for an expedient political patronage selection.
In sum, the Board should be guided by the constitutional statement that imposes upon the State a “paramount duty” to make “adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” Included in such a paramount duty is the selection of the best person possible to lead the effort. Finding such a person mandates that the Board conduct a national search and not just grant perfunctory approval to a political patronage appointment.
Florida’s children deserve nothing less.
Patricia Brigham

Coalition wants more Constitution Revision Commission hearings

As the Florida Constitution Revision Commission begins its debate this week on a slate of constitutional amendments for the 2018 ballot, a group of Democratic-leaning organizations is calling for more public hearings.

The commission has already received more than 1,000 proposals from the public and is expected to extend the filing deadline, because of Hurricane Irma, to Oct. 6. The 37 members of the commission will have until Oct. 31 to file their own proposals under the new schedule, with seven commissioner proposals filed thus far.

The coalition, which includes the Florida Education Association, the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Florida AFL-CIO, the ACLU and other groups, in a letter today asked the commission to consider another round of public hearings around the state “after the full commission has determined, by majority vote, which proposals will be further considered.”

“As was evident during the first round of public hearings, Florida’s citizens are concerned about a wide range of issues in our state. A second round of hearings after many issues are eliminated will allow citizens the opportunity to make focused and in-depth public comment about issues that have been determined to have a real chance of making it to the ballot,” the letter said. “And commissioners will have the benefit of that comment before they take their final vote.”

Additionally, the coalition asked the commission to hold itself to a strict interpretation of Florida’s open-government laws, including prohibiting private communication between two commissioners when they are discussing proposals.

The Constitution Revision Commission meets every 20 years and has the unique ability to place constitutional amendments directly on the ballot. Any proposals placed on the 2018 general election ballot by the CRC must be approved by at least 60 percent of the voters to be enacted.

— By Lloyd Dunkelberger.

“Paff-daddy” joins board of Florida League of Women Voters

Former House Minority Leader Mark Pafford joined the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of FloridaLeague of Women Voters of Florida, the organization announced in a press release Tuesday.


Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat, served in the state House for eight years before leaving office last year due to term limits.

In addition joins three other new additions to the LWF board: Stephanie Owens; Marty Sullivan, Co-Chair of the Florida League’s Natural Resources Committee; and Maggie Lawrence, media buyer and project manager with SalterMitchell.

“The League is honored to welcome these new appointed directors,” LWVF President Pamela Goodman said in a press release. “These new members will contribute significantly to the League’s continuing efforts to act on selected governmental issues and to influence public policy through education and advocacy. We look forward to working with them.”

Groups demand more sunshine for Constitution Revision Commission

A coalition of left-leaning organizations and unions is decrying a decision by Constitution Revision Commission Chairman Carlos Beruff to hold a meeting of the full panel next week to vote on rules for the once-every-20-years overhaul of the state’s basic law.

A working group that had been named to make changes to the rules and propose them to the full CRC spent hours working on the document last week but only got about a third of the way through the assignment. So commission Chairman Carlos Beruff announced Friday in a letter that the entire commission will meet in Orlando and essentially start over with the initial draft.

“Your new plan for adopting rules undermines the work and recommendations of the Rules Working Group and it causes us to question whether your real motivation is to facilitate an end run around conclusions reached by a supermajority of the Group because those conclusions were not to your liking,” the coalition, which includes Florida branches of the ACLU, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and others, including Florida unions representing teachers and government workers.

The CRC should go back to the two-decade-old rules under which the last commission operated, suggested the group, which also includes Progress Florida, Mi Familia Vota, the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, and Florida Strong.

Read the full letter here.