The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is the third generation of Jacksonville's local education fund and was established in 2009.
The Beginnings of Jacksonville's Local Education Fund
The first generation of Jacksonville's local education fund, known as the Duval Public Education Foundation, Inc., was started in the 1980s, and its work focused mainly on teacher recognition. In 2000, the organization restructured, moving to a board of influential business leaders, and adopted the name Alliance for World Class Education. The Alliance continued the teacher recognition program through its creation of the EDDY Awards and was instrumental in the creation of the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership, Duval County Public Schools' professional development center. The primary focus of the Alliance, however, became the improvement of business processes in the school district through projects designed to increase efficiency.
Incited by 2004 standardized test results which indicated that more than half of Duval County Public Schools' students in grades 3-10 were performing below grade level in reading and/or math, The Community Foundation in Jacksonville decided to focus a significant portion of its work and resources on public education. In 2005, the Foundation launched its Quality Education for All initiative and identified Community Learning as one of the three primary strands of work. With this goal in mind, the Foundation established the Forum on Quality Education through which a group of 27 community leaders met once a month, for 18 months, to learn about the challenges and opportunities facing public education in Duval County.
Over the course of these discussions, Forum members identified the need for a neutral entity that could serve as an informed advocate for quality education over the long term, mobilizing community stakeholders around critical issues, and be a presence that transcends changes in leadership. Such a role was not one that The Community Foundation wanted to take on for the long term, and at the time, the Alliance's role did not include advocacy in the community.
The Jacksonville Public Education Fund
Through conversations with Wendy Puriefoy, president of the Public Education Network, The Community Foundation gained an understanding of the role of a high-performing/high-capacity local education fund. Such a local education fund works closely with the school district in a complex relationship that pushes or pulls the district in new directions when necessary while still maintaining a constructive partnership. A high-capacity local education fund also engages parents, community groups, and the business and philanthropic communities to bring these sectors and their resources into the schools. During this learning process, the Foundation convened a group of potential donors who came together as a task force dedicated to creating a high-performing local education fund for Duval County. In May of 2008 the task force reconvened with members of the Alliance Board of Directors to present the case for a restructured local education fund. Later that month, the Alliance Board of Directors agreed to join the members of the task force in overseeing the transition to the new organization.
On January 1, 2009, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund began its role as Duval County's high-performing local education fund.