MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Most school board members across the state could see a drastic pay cut.
A bill approved by the Senate Education Committee last week aims to reduce their pay. The significant pay cuts are leaving school board members wondering if there is an ulterior motive to the bill.
Right now, board members in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are making about $46,000. If this bill passes, those members will see about a $17,000 deduction in pay.
"It is not a money issue. The state is seeing record numbers of money coming in. This is targeting school board members, and my first impulse is why?" questions Steve Gallon III, vice chair of Miami Dade County Public Schools.
That question weighing heavy on school board members as well.
"It feels like this is on purpose, that voices are being silenced, that representation is being weakened on purpose," says Lucia Baez-Geller.
The drastic pay cuts proposed in Senate Bill 1300 would impact school board members in 49 of Florida's 67 school districts.
"What happens if you have school board members that aren't compensated? Is that going to leave the vacuum of service to those that can afford it? Is that now going to provide an opportunity or pathway or service to those who are elite who are economically able to do that?" says Gallon.
But State Sen. Joe Gruters says they want to make school board salaries equal to members of the Florida Legislature, which means taking current school board salaries of $46,000 down to just $29,000.
"The latest survey of school board members say they work less than 40 hours per month," says Gruters.
But Gallon says that statistic is completely inaccurate. He says in just one week, school board members had meetings totaling 24 hours and an additional nine hours was spent interviewing superintendent candidates.
He says, "Anyone who attempts to deduce the amount of time that school board members invest in their local communities and policy making and meetings, that notion can be clearly debunked."
Gallon continues to say they're not naive to the challenged relationship with the state over the last year in terms of mask mandates and other corporate related policies. He, along with school board members, question if the bill is fueled by political views that don't align.
"I'm a teacher for 15 years. I ran and had the salary been what it's proposed to be with the cuts they're proposing I would have thought twice," says Miami-Dade County School Board member Lucia Baez-Geller.
Baez says she won't give up her title as school board member even if the bill does pass. But she's worried the opportunity to become a member won't be appealing to as many people if it does pass.
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