Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday said his political committee spent about $2 million to support county school board candidates in this year’s elections.
DeSantis endorsed 30 conservative school-board candidates in the nonpartisan races, most of whom chalked up wins. Speaking at an event Monday in Orlando, DeSantis said his Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee helped pay for advertising for his preferred candidates.
“We did a couple million dollars, $2.1 million of support, for text messaging, mail pieces, robocalls, all that stuff,” DeSantis said. “All we were doing — it wasn’t rocket science — we were just educating our voters about who shared our values and who didn’t.”
DeSantis’ focus on school-board politics came after high-profile clashes with boards during the past two years, based on issues such as student mask requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In some cases, 2022 election wins helped create conservative majorities on school boards.
As The Free Press reported on December 2nd, school boards in Sarasota, Broward, and Brevard counties ousted district superintendents in November after conservatives captured control of the panel.
In each termination case, the makeup of the county’s school boards shifted to lean conservative after newly-elected members were sworn in.
DeSantis signed an executive order in July 2021 requiring schools to give parents the ability to opt their students out of school mask mandates.
The order came in response to schools implementing mask mandates in 2020, as The Free Press reported.
On Nov. 29, Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Brennan Asplen agreed to step down after the school board criticized mask mandates which Asplen backed.
Asplen, who took over in 2020, called the board’s citing of his COVID-19 response “ridiculous.” School Board Chair Bridget Ziegler noted that the relationship between the board and the superintendent was broken.
On Nov. 22, Brevard County Superintendent Mark Mullins, who faced backlash for supporting an extended mask mandate, agreed with the school board to enter into separation negotiations.
With three superintendents out the door, advocate groups like Moms for Liberty claim that more changes are yet to come.