Duval County Public Schools have some of the oldest schools in the state and are in need of over a billion dollars in repairs and upgrades. The news reported that it would be cheaper to bulldoze dozens of buildings and replace them rather than repair them.
Duval’s teachers are also some of the lowest paid in not just the state but in the nation and of the six big Florida districts we are dead last. This has led to a teacher shortage that is only going to get worse.
Then the state government keeps sending mandate after mandate to the district including providing extra security but routinely fails to fund them. Last year it funded only an extra forty-seven cents in discretionary spending, but when the costs of the mandates was factored in, Duval actually had less money to spend on its priorities than it had in years past.
So what does Tallahassee do? It now requires the district to share its revenue with dozens of for profit charter schools, many of which are in neighborhoods that already have high performing traditional public schools and year after year after as property values have risen it has restricted the district’s ability to raise revenue through millage increases. Finally, as a kicker, Jacksonville doesn’t even require impact fees from new builds that are supposed to help finance things like schools and roads.
This is beyond a crisis. We would be lucky if we could afford shoe strings and chewing gum, to shore things up.
Our leaders on the school board and city council, as so many others in other districts across Florida have, including very conservative Clay county, need to step up and ask the citizens for a sales tax referendum and or a substantial increase in the millage rate which has remained flat even as property values have risen.
I get it nobody likes taxes, but what I believe after having conversation after conversation with my neighbors is they dislike teachers having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, more and more classes being taught by subs, schools that aren’t safe and public buildings in disrepair, even more.
Aren’t our children worth, what when divided collectively would only be a few extra dollars a year? I think they are and I believe most of you do too. Now we just need our local leaders to step up and do the right thing.