DeSantis Has a Target List of ‘Woke’ School Board Members to Unseat in 2024

DeSantis Has a Target List of ‘Woke’ School Board Members to Unseat in 2024
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Las Vegas, Nev., on Nov. 19, 2022. (Wade Vandervort/AFP via Getty Images)
Ryan Morgan

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and education activists have zeroed in on a list of “woke” school board officials to replace in the 2024 elections.

On Tuesday, DeSantis met with the state’s Republican House Speaker Paul Renner, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, and Moms for Liberty co-founders Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice to discuss a list of school board officials they would try to unseat in the next election.

Sierra Kostick, a spokeswoman for Moms For Liberty, confirmed the meeting in an emailed statement to NTD. Kostick also shared the list of 14 school board members the organization is working with DeSantis’s political team to unseat. That list includes:
  1. Jennifer Jenkins – Brevard County, District 3
  2. Kelly Coker – Duval County, District 1
  3. Cindy Pearson – Duval County, District 3
  4. Nadia Combs – Hillsborough County, District 1
  5. Jessica Vaughn – Hillsborough County, District 3
  6. Peggy Jones – Indian River County, District 3
  7. Brian Barefoot – Indian River County, District 5
  8. Luisa Santos – Miami-Dade County, District 9
  9. Laura Hine – Pinellas County, Districts 1
  10. Eileen Long – Pinellas County, Districts 4
  11. Jack Kelly – St. Lucie County, District 2
  12. Anita Burnette – Volusia County, Districts 2
  13. Carl Persis – Volusia County, Districts 4
  14. Tom Edwards – Sarasota County, District 3

Comments About Targeted School Board Officials

According to quotes shared with the Florida Standard, officials in the Tuesday meeting described their opposition to various school board members over their support for masking children in schools and for their perceived left-wing political agendas.

The officials said Jones “did her best to stall the removal of pornographic books” from schools. They also said Edwards “likes to brag about how he’s ‘working from the inside’ to indoctrinate children with harmful, Leftist ideology.” The officials described Burnette and Persis as proponents of “masking, transgenderism, wokeism.” They also said Jenkins “showcased her disdain for parental rights on MSNBC.”

NTD reached out to the targeted school board members for comment but most did not respond before press time.

“What’s it say about the quality of candidates and the value of your organization’s endorsement when the woman who runs said organization sits at a table asking the Governor for help to replace the woman who successfully unseated her in a majority Republican district?” Jenkins told NTD, referring to her 2020 school board election victory over Moms for Liberty co-founder Descovich.

“I‘d be more concerned if an article came out saying ’Ron DeSantis endorses Jennifer Jenkins,'” the Brevard County school board member added. “It would mean I would definitely have to reevaluate my values.”

Jones said: “I was elected to the School Board in Indian River County because of my long-standing reputation to educate all children in our community. I will continue to do the work I love every day.”

NTD also reached out to DeSantis’s political team for comment, but they did not respond before publication.

DeSantis’s Education Campaign

The list of 14 school board members is not the first time DeSantis has gotten involved in local education elections. DeSantis endorsed 34 candidates in school board elections throughout Florida in the 2022 elections; 29 of those candidates went on to win their races and gain seats on school boards across the state.
DeSantis has opposed “woke” ideology in public schools throughout the state of Florida. In 2022, he and the Florida legislature passed the Stop WOKE Act, which aims to prevent the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.
The Florida governor has also recently come out in opposition of a high school Advanced Placement African American Studies course, which his administration has argued “lacks educational value.” The course was changed, following DeSantis’s criticisms, and portions of the course that focused on “intersectionality,” “reparations,” “incarceration,” and a section called “Reframing Early African History in African American Studies” have been removed.
Several political commentators have accused DeSantis of “erasing black history” over his administration’s opposition to the AP African American Studies course.

DeSantis and his administration have argued that the AP course ran afoul of the Stop WOKE Act, which explicitly prohibits schools from teaching that people are inherently sexist or racist by virtue of their race or sex or that members of certain races or sexes bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of their race or sex.