Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has endorsed Brevard County School Board candidate Megan Wright along with nine other candidates around the state on Monday, making good on his promise to get involved in local school board elections.
The governor also launched a “DeSantis Education Agenda” website and survey last week aimed at school board candidate — another sign that state-level politicians are taking a keen interest in those local races this year.
DeSantis endorsed Wright and the other candidates in a tweet and a Facebook post.
“We need strong local school board members who are committed to advancing our agenda to put students first and protect parents’ rights,” he wrote.
Wright is running for District 1 of the School Board against current School Board Chair Misty Belford. Wright, a mother and a founder of a real estate company, told FLORIDA TODAY that she’s running because she believes the current School Board has lost the faith of parents and the community.
“If things were going well with BPS, I would not be running,” Wright said in an email. “My sole desire is to contribute to rebuilding trust and improving our district. … The current board has allowed policies that endanger teachers and students alike.”
Belford declined to comment on the endorsement.
Wright wrote in a Monday Facebook post that it was “a privilege and an honor” to have the endorsement of DeSantis, who she called “the best governor in our great country.”
Last week DeSantis launched a “DeSantis Education Agenda Survey” quizzing school board candidates on how closely they align with the governor’s views. The survey asks candidates about topics such as trade education, parental rights, school curriculums, and whether the candidates support DeSantis’ efforts to arm school personnel, require teachings about the harms of communism, increase teacher minimum pay and more.
“Does CRT belong in K-12 public education classrooms in Florida?” one question asks. Another asks if students should be forced to wear masks.
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DeSantis’ education agenda website lists ten goals:
- Keep Schools Open and Reject Lockdowns
- Educate, Don’t Indoctrinate
- Ensure Parental Rights in Education and Keep Woke Gender Ideology Out of Schools
- Support Robust Civics Education
- Expand Workforce Development and Technical Education
- Reject the use of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the Curriculum
- Increase Teacher Pay
- Continue Support for School Security and Mental Health Initiatives
- Protect the Right of Parents to Petition School Boards and Districts for Redress of Grievances
- Guarantee the Right of Parents to Curriculum Transparency
Wright shares many of DeSantis’ education focuses, listing critical race theory, trade education in schools, teacher pay and transparency as key issues on her website.
Belford, who is not affiliated with a political party, has not focused on issues such as parental rights and critical race theory during her campaign. Belford has also clashed with the state as one of three Brevard School Board members to vote to institute a mask mandate without a parental opt out in fall 2021, a move DeSantis, the Florida Board of Education and the Florida Department of Health deemed unlawful under the Parents’ Bill of Rights.
Belford said she’s focused on school safety, career and technical education and other issues than divisive topics such as critical race theory, and that her experience makes her a better candidate for School Board. Belford is the longest-serving member of the board, having represented district 1 since 2014.
Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, said DeSantis’ involvement in local school board races is new for Florida politics.
“That’s not to say a Governor here or there has not endorsed an individual school board member,” Jewett said. “Maybe there was a friend. This goes beyond that. This is an organized effort to endorse school board members who agree with the DeSantis agenda.”
Jewett said an endorsement from a high-ranking Republican such as DeSantis is likely to sway school board races, though in some counties with more Democrats an endorsement may actually make a candidate less popular.
“Certainly for people who are DeSantis fans and who think of themselves as loyal Republicans, I think this will raise the profile of those candidates and potentially attract more voters,” Jewett said. “In Brevard, it’s more likely to have the effect that he wants.”
This article first appeared on FloridaToday.com