For weeks I have been trying to get the local media to report on who’s donating to school board candidates. I believe these associations are a good indicator of the candidates’ politics* and how they would steer the board. Other than a back page Folio article that first appeared on the blog Education Matters, the media has been silent.
One reporter did tell me that they were to busy covering up-ticket races, i.e. races they consider more important. *It is thinking like that that has gotten us to where we are at.
Look at districts 3 and and 1, two of the 0dd-numbered districts that are coming up for re-election in August.
*Despite constant criticism about the curriculum, classroom behavior, and privatization, School board members Cheryl Grymes (1) and Ashley Smith Juarez (3) are running unopposed. And Grymes has taken thousands of dollars from for-profit education companies. In fact, as Richard Birdsall wrote for Folio Weekly, more than half of her $18,000 in contributions hail from contributors outside of Jacksonville, and many of those come from other states.
If people know and don’t care, that’s one thing, but right now most people don’t know, and the media is not *informing them. I guess the reason is they don’t think school board races are important.
Let me convince you other wise.
· 7 people control a 1.7 billion dollar budget, that’s about $800 million more than the entire city budget. There are also 19 city council members.
· 14,000 people work for the school board, which makes them the second biggest employer in Jacksonville, * behind the U.S. Navy.
· 120,000 children go to Duval County public schools. That’s 120,000 futures the board members are helping to mold, people who will be working for you, taking care of you and assisting you.
· DCPS indirectly affects an estimated 500,000 family members for the 120,000 students they serve.
· Schools also affect property values, insurance rates, and decisions about whether businesses come to town or not.
How are the school board races not more important to the day-to-day lives of Jacksonville citizens than any other race?
School board elections are far more important than any state legislature position and, I would argue, congress too. Yet the races go ignored for the most part and about twenty thousand people will decide the four races coming up.
For a long time, the school board has been used by politicians and would-be politicians looking to move up to other political positions. They don’t care about our schools, don’t know about or understand education, but time and time again we elect them and then we wonder why our schools are in the state they are in. We end up blaming teachers and parents for the no-win situations they are often put in by our apathy.
Only three current members of the board have any real education experience, and they are often overruled by the members with no education experience. Those four board members, by the way, have also taken a lot of money from for-profit charter schools and their supporters as well.
The media needs to start doing its job informing people how school board campaigns are being financed. Then, the people of Jacksonville–whether they have children in DCPS or not–need to do their jobs as well and vote for candidates who are interested in fixing our schools, not ones who represent special interests or see the board as a stepping stone to something else.*