House measure would slash pay for school boards
By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer
TALLAHASSEE -- Local school board members would lose their paychecks if the Legislature passes a mammoth bill to overhaul the state's education laws.
The key provision -- which would reimburse board members for expenses but would eliminate their salaries -- was tagged Wednesday onto a 1,700-page, "must pass" bill state officials have been working on for months to make education laws easier to understand.
The move outraged school board lobbyists but was defended by House Speaker Tom Feeney and Rep. Jerry Melvin, the Fort Walton Beach Republican who oversees the top House education committee.
"Sadly, if you pay an attractive salary for a part time job, sometimes you get (qualified) people and sometimes you get people who are not as prepared," Feeney said. Yet the state has had great success in attracting qualified people to serve on state university boards, even though those positions are unpaid, Feeney said.
If not paying a board member attracts better candidates, Hernando School Board member Jim Malcolm said he thinks the same logic should apply to legislators.
"I'd be happy to comply with the amendment if the House members likewise would commit themselves to being volunteers," Malcolm said.
"Perhaps we'd get a better product," Malcolm said, adding that he suspected the amendment was payback for school boards' vocal opposition to the House's proposed education spending plan.
School board members' salaries are based on a state pay formula for elected officials and in many average sized counties range from about $25,000 to just less than $30,000. The House sets its own members' salary, with the approval of the Senate and the governor. The salary now is $28,608.
The amendment still would have to pass the Senate, which some observers say isn't likely considering friction between the House and Senate.
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From the Times state desk
From the state wire