The day Democracy died in Duval County (rough draft)

I have always thought that when talking about city politics,
the school board goes largely unnoticed. Which is crazy if you think about it.
19 city council members to 7 school board members.
An elected mayor compared to an appointed superintendent
A 1.1 billion dollar budget for the city and a 1.7 billion
dollar budget for the school system
More money, fewer people controlling it and less people
paying attention, I think the school board wins, unfortunately I think the
people of Jacksonville are losing.
Recently the Duval County School board has abdicated their
duly elected responsibilities and begun rubber-stamping initiatives brought
forward and admittedly paid for by a cabal of wealthy donors who call
themselves the QEA board. They did so at the most recent school board meeting
when they agreed to take 15 million dollars for teacher bonuses. An idea that
was not floated in front of the people but behind closed doors because the QEA
despite creating policy is not required to have any public over site.
From WJCT: Former
School Board candidate Bradford Hall suggested the QEA advisory board hold open
meetings. Those meetings are currently held out of the public eye.
“I understand that there is an effort to dispel the rumors that
there are no conditions attached to certain funds, but I guess…it’s better to
show us than to tell us, and transparency is definitely a solution to that,” he
Yes it is certainly better to show us but it gets even
worse and more complicated. The members of the QEA board are also frequent
donors to school board races.
Wayne Weaver, Gary Chartrand
and Cindy Edelman have all picked the same person to support in each school
board race and this after helping Ashley Smith Juarez get elected in 2012. They
are also on the board of the Jacksonville Public Education fund, which has had
closer and closer ties to the district over the last few years. The QEA board
members also have close ties to the corporate reform movement, namely charter
schools, which have appointed boards rather than elected ones and of which
most, are for profit.
The QEA board despite the fact
they are the lion’s share of donors then contracted with the Community
Foundation to manage the money, they in return are giving the money to
the JPEF (no word on the cuts
the two organizations are taking but 3-6% is the usual amount) and then the
JPEF is giving the money to the district. Um, why all these steps? Why not just
go right to the district, well friends it has to be because they want to remain
some shreds of control and I believe this is all about control, who will
control our schools, the public or a small group of rich people, who by the way
are not educators sadly if they have their hand picked candidates elected then
they will have total control.
But lets get back to the school
board. They were presumably elected to craft education policy, well by
approving the QEA initiatives they have abdicated that responsibility. They in
effect said show us the money and then where to sign. The QEA initiatives
should have been vetted in public where the public could provide input not
behind closed doors where we have no idea about quid pro quos, promises or the
motivation’s behind the proposals. Am I asking too much there? Isn’t that a
problem we have in politics, backdoor deals that benefit a few rich people or
their companies?
Okay some of you might be
saying you like the ideas, that they are needed to which I reply, it shouldn’t
mater if you like the ideas or not. What‘s going to happen if their next round
of ideas include giving public schools to charter companies and replacing
hundreds of teachers with TFA hobbyists or hiring their friends or giving
expensive contracts to their companies? 
They have already set the precedent that doing things behind closed
doors is acceptable. There is a right way to do things and a wrong way and this
is the wrong way. Furthermore we only have to go back a few years to see what
gifts can do.
At the height of the recession
states and districts were desperate and the Federal Government swooped in with
their Race to the Top Grants and said all we had to do was trade local control
to get them. As a result we now have Common Core and VAM based teacher
evaluations and many states and districts have buyer’s remorse. Common Core
doesn’t address poverty (neither do the QEA initiatives) our real problem and
siphons millions and millions out of classrooms to pay for new materials and
testing and the VAM based evaluations, blame the teacher evaluations, were
doubled down by the QEA who used VAM scores to determine transfers both
voluntary and involuntary, this despite the face the department of education
says they are inaccurate more than a third of the time. 
Hey at the time we needed the
money though right? Unfortunately the cure was worse than the disease and now
that we have abdicated democracy to the QEA board what’s going to come next?

Democracy can be messy but it’s the best system going. The QEA board has
dismantled it in Jacksonville. It’s most likely all they wanted would have
passed if they went through the board but they decided they didn’t have to and
the board took thirty pieces of silver and went along and that should concern us all. 

2 Replies to “The day Democracy died in Duval County (rough draft)”

  1. It would be beneficial if the school system were to have links on its web site:
    copies of all contracts, grants, etc.;
    copies of all letters signed by anyone (director, manager, supervisor, etc.) making more than (e. g.) $50,000/yr.;
    contact information of anyone making more than (e. g.) $50,000/yr.
    database of all emails to/from anyone (privacy and personnel exceptions)
    database of all phone numbers and caller I. D. used in their land-lines and cell phones.

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