October 11, 2016 – Politico
by Jessica Bakeman
Florida school board members and candidates for the elected local offices will soon have a chance to learn about a new law reining in districts’ construction spending from a state legislator who crafted the measure.
But no one else will be allowed to listen in.
In order to participate in the Florida Coalition of School Board Members webinar featuring state House of Representatives education budget chair Erik Fresen, “as always you must be a sitting school board member or candidate in an active race,” according to an emailed invitation.
The fact that the webinar is closed to the public — like several other events hosted by the group over the last year were — could be a violation of Florida’s public meetings laws, depending on who participates and what they discuss.
The Oct. 3 invitation to the event featuring the Miami Republican — which was originally scheduled for last week but postponed because of Hurricane Matthew — included the warning that only school board members or candidates could partake. That notation wasn’t included in past communications about a series of other webinars the group has hosted. But it was specified in the recent email after POLITICO Florida attempted to register for — and was denied access to — a Sept. 19 presentation in which a state Department of Education official explained a new open enrollment law.
Under Florida’s sunshine laws, if two members of the same school board discuss any topic that could possibly come up for action before the board, their communication must be public.
It’s likely that school boards will soon be debating how much to spend on construction projects or how to decide which schools will open seats for inter-district transfers. So if more than one member of the same district’s school board participated in the September webinar on open enrollment or joins the rescheduled forum featuring Fresen and contributes to the conversation, they could be in violation of the law. [READ MORE]