The Jacksonville Public Education Fund issued the following statement about the proposed half-penny sales tax for public schools in Duval County on August 23, 2019. Make your voice heard by contacting your representatives on City Council and attending the Aug. 27 City Council meeting at City Hall at 5 p.m.
Since January, our community has been discussing a half-cent sales tax to repair and replace our aging school buildings. The Jacksonville Public Education Fund, as an independent, data-driven organization working to close the opportunity gap in traditional and charter public schools in Duval County, calls on the Jacksonville City Council to place the School Board’s resolution on the ballot. The voters should have the chance to better fund our public schools.
There are five main reasons we support the School Board’s resolution to put a school surtax to a vote.
Need – Public school buildings in Duval County have suffered years of neglect because of declining state funding. Research shows that secure, high-quality facilities help attract great educators to schools and help students learn. There is no way to give our students the safe learning environment they deserve without seeking an additional source of revenue from taxpayers.
Community support – For six years, JPEF has conducted a scientific poll of community views on public education. Every year, a strong majority of voters have said they would support a small tax increase for public education. This year, two polls of residents, including ours, showed 75 percent or more support a small tax for school facilities. The community has said they value education enough to raise their own taxes to support schools, and we believe our civic leaders should give them that chance.
Equity – To understand the current state of our schools, we have to look to history. Our inadequate school buildings date back to the era of segregation, when separate was not equal. A facilities study has shown that the schools with the greatest deterioration are in high-poverty areas in Northwest Jacksonville, and the majority of school improvements would happen in those areas, as well. This tax referendum is a chance to provide all of our students the chance to be educated in a 21st century learning environment.
Revenue sharing with charter schools – The Duval County School Board, unlike many other districts in the state who have secured a surtax, has committed to support charter schools’ facilities. We would like to see traditional and charter school supporters come together to ensure all public school students have access to the facilities they deserve.
Accountability and oversight – The Duval County School Board has proposed detailed facilities plans, a citizens oversight committee, and a process for School Board members to make decisions about the spending of funds in their districts. The electoral process is designed to allow the public to hold School Board members accountable.
Finally, a word about the work of educators. Our principals and teachers are back in school, working hard despite inadequate facilities to give their very best to our children. The role of policymakers should be to support them in that work. This is a pivotal moment for our community leaders to work together to support our educators. Let’s come together and do what is right for our children.