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New poll shows broad community support for education improvement

Citizens in Duval County are broadly supportive of current and potential efforts to improve public education, according to a new poll released today by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

"The last year has been one of significant positive change for public education," said Trey Csar, President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. "We've seen unprecedented community and district alignment around common priorities, we've had unprecedented strategic investment from the philanthropic community, and unprecedented alignment of elected officials, nonprofit and business partners. With strong new leadership at the helm of Duval County Public Schools, the momentum for education is strong and this poll shows that the community sees that."

Download the full results here.

***EXPLORE THE DATA WITH INTERACTIVE VISUALIZATIONS HERE.***

More than half of respondents rated the Duval County School Board and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti as effective. While this poll is new, a similar question asked in 2011 in the JCCI Quality of Life Report demonstrates a sharp increase in community confidence since that time. In that poll, only 20 percent rated the quality of the elected leadership on the Duval County School Board as "Good" or "Excellent."

Parents with students in Duval County Public Schools rated public schools even more highly and were much less concerned about safety issues than respondents who did not have a child in public schools.

Respondents were asked about the four priorities found in the district's Strategic Plan, which has integrated the majority of the priorities identified by community members in the ONE by ONE Community Agreement created in January 2013.

Nearly a third of residents rated the priority to "Recruit, develop and retain great teachers and leaders" as most important. Respondents, especially those who were parents, also indicated strong support for focusing on the whole child by providing a well-rounded education that includes art, music, physical education and health services. Few respondents rated using resources fairly, effectively and efficiently as the most important priority.

In fact, Duval County residents showed strong support for increasing the resources for schools. Two-thirds of respondents said they would support a small increase in property taxes to go to public education.

The poll reflects opinions around the growing need for education beyond high school to ensure that today's students are prepared to become the workforce of tomorrow. More than three-quarters of respondents said that students need postsecondary education beyond just a high school degree to be successful. And 64 percent said that it was important for every student to have a laptop or tablet to use in their classes.

Citizens in Duval County also strongly support the concept behind Common Core State Standards. Two in three respondents said it was important that Florida students be held to the same standards as students in other states so we can know how our students are performing compared to students nationwide.

"With these common goals in mind, the community is clearly supportive of the new direction of our public schools and appears ready for the next steps in moving our schools forward," Csar said. "It will take all of these to ensure thatallstudents are prepared for college and the workforce."

See the presentation from today's press conference: