Marta Perez’s 24-year tenure on the Miami-Dade school board was abruptly terminated this past August 23 when newcomer Monica Colucci garnered 50 percent of the vote to represent a huge swath of the southern part of the county.
Colucci, a Miami-Dade public school elementary teacher for 26 years, was endorsed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. She was part of a wave of 19 DeSantis-backed candidates who triumphed last month.
In previous elections, Perez had been either unopposed or had won with drastically high margins. This time around, she expresses, DeSantis and Lieutenant Gov. Jeanette Nuñez broke rules and customs.
“Every day it was just one more unethical, probably illegal thing that they were throwing or doing,” said Perez. “Unfortunately, people believed them, and it’s very problematic because that’s how totalitarian governments get elected, like [Fidel] Castro.”
Colucci’s campaign publicly stated that they deny these allegations and call Perez “outright dishonest.”
Also in response to the claims, Nuñez released this statement, according to CBS4:,”Governor DeSantis and I fully endorse Monica Colucci in this race. This is called democracy, not sabotage. It is time for new leadership on our School Board, and Monica’s platform of parental rights, school choice, and no new taxes are what voters want for their children’s future.”
The main driving force for Perez when she first ran for the school board in 1998 was that reform was needed. Students’ academic scores were declining, and the district’s finances were managed so poorly that some were concerned the state would have to take over.
During her time on the school board, Perez accomplished many things including initiating the first Office of Inspector General and Ethics Advisory Committee in a school district. She also helped establish a national standard for the expansion of mental health services in education. She was also named the 2021 Green Garten Award for best school board member in the nation and School Board Member of the Year by the Teachers for Better Education.
Perez says she lost even though District 8, which she represented, is now in “the best financial, academic, and physical shape” in Miami-Dade Public School history. Supporters bailed on her, she contends, after receiving threats from the lieutenant governor. Even though she is conservative herself, it was all simply because of her vote for an additional two-week mask mandate for students.
“I know even my own board members are shivering in their boots because they’re afraid of the governor, so they’re just gonna do whatever they think is pleasing to him and the lieutenant governor, said Perez. “It’s controlling and it’s against what Republican values are because Republican values are for local control, not control from above.”
This past March, Gov. DeSantis signed HB 1467, which establishes 12-year term limits in school boards. Although this would appear as an advantage to the candidates DeSantis has helped win, Dr. Kathryn DePalo-Gould, a professor at Florida International University with experience in local and state elections and the author of The Failure of Term Limits in Florida, claims it will more than likely improve school boards in the state.
DePalo-Gould explains that 12-year term limits would “really change the game,” meaning a prolonged position in the school board would allow for candidates to gain a better grasp of the law-making process and their job to make a difference in their position.
But, she adds, the political dynamic of communities is changing.
“People have become more partisan, so that’s gonna be reflected in every sort of organization, especially political organizations,” said DePalo-Gould. “A school board is political, so it is there to reflect the will of their constituents and people who live in that area.”
DeSantis supported 30 school board candidates and two-thirds of them won. His skyrocketing power in Florida has gained him a national reputation as he has promoted a conservative political agenda. This election was a stark example of that.
“Seeing the election results in the primaries and how Ron DeSantis is influencing local elections incentivized me to vote for what I believe in and vote for someone who favors my beliefs and morals,” said David Lainez, a constituent of District 8 who recently registered as a Democrat.