A week out from School Board races in Sarasota County, a Parkland parent recorded a robocall taking sides.
Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, ties the issue of defunding the police to the School Board contests.
“I’m calling to share that I am disgusted and angry to hear that two Sarasota County School Board candidates, Tom Edwards and David Graham, are pushing to redeploy and reallocate funding for law enforcement. Anyone who supports defunding the police has no business running for office, let alone, overseeing schools,” Petty says in the call.
“Their plan to defend the police puts Sarasota County students and teachers at risk, which is something we cannot let happen. That is why I’m supporting Karen Rose and Eric Robinson.”
Edwards is challenging Robinson, an incumbent School Board member and prominent Florida campaign treasurer, for his District 3 seat. Graham and Rose face off for an open District 2 seat.
The call, paid for by the Republican Party of Sarasota, is based off comments Edwards and Graham have both made regarding a willingness to reevaluate budget priorities.
School Board races in recent cycles have become increasingly partisan. Right now, Democrats control the School Board, but only since two members, Jane Goodwin and Caroline Zucker, changed parties this year.
With Zucker not seeking reelection to the District 2 seat, that puts control of the board on the ballot this year. While Republicans have put resources behind Robinson and Rose, the Sarasota Democratic Party supports Edwards and Graham.
While many of the budget debates this year have related to dealing with COVID-19, the possibility of shifting money away from a district school force has brought defunding the police into the fray.
Sarasota created its own police force in 2018, following up on requirements to boost school safety passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott that year. The new law was drafted in direct response to the Parkland shooting where Petty’s daughter was murdered along with 16 others.
Petty was among the parents most closely involved in a discussion of the law and has remained one of the most politically involved parents in the two years since the shooting. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him to the Board of Education this year.