Jacksonville Public Education Fund Thanks Voters for Supporting Public Schools Referendum

Voters overwhelmingly supported the half-penny for schools, by 67 percent.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Nov. 3, 2020 — The Jacksonville Public Education Fund extends its thanks and congratulations to public education advocates in Duval County, after voters approved the half-penny referendum for public schools by a wide margin, bringing vital resources to upgrade public school buildings across Duval County.

JPEF was proud to partner with Duval Citizens for Better Schools, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the United Way of Northeast Florida, VyStar Credit Union, and Teach for America as they informed their constituents and advocated in support of public schools ahead of the vote.

“This moment is the culmination of many years of work, not just by JPEF’s board, staff, and supporters, but also by innumerable community advocates for public schools,” said JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune. “First, I want to thank our School Board, which had the courage and leadership to pursue this historic investment in schools. I also want to thank each and every community leader and public education advocate who stood in support of the referendum. “

In 2009, when JPEF was founded, only 20 percent of Duval County residents had a direct stake in public schools, through employment or a student enrolled. JPEF set out to change that, raising awareness across the city for the important role of public education and inviting community members to support public schools. Today, the broad support for the referendum – 67 percent of voters – shows just how far Jacksonville has come in supporting public education. 

Examples of JPEF’s community engagement include:

  • The 1 in 3 Exhibit at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, attended by more than 1,000 people on opening night alone. The Exhibit raised awareness about the dropout crisis in Duval County, in which one in three students was not completing high school on time. Today, Duval County’s graduation rate is 86.5 percent.
  • The ONE by ONE campaign, which included approximately 200 kitchen table conversations with more than 1,600 Jacksonville residents to establish community priorities for public schools. Several of those priorities were then adopted in the Duval County School Board’s strategic plan.
  • ONE by ONE conventions, hosted annually, which brought approximately 2,000 community leaders and education advocates together to learn about the state of our schools and take action on their behalf.
  • School Facts Jax, which provides information about school grades, test scores and demographic information to parents and families making decisions about where to enroll their students.
  • Discover Duval Schools, which brought community leaders to tour exemplary public schools, raising awareness about the success of our schools.
  • Public opinion polls, in partnership with the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab, that measured support for a small surtax for schools over six years, building the case for a referendum.
  • Public statements in support of the half-penny for schools in both 2019 and 2020, when the Duval County School Board brought the proposal before City Council and the voters.
  • ONE by ONE for the Half-Penny, a six-month effort to mobilize grassroots support for the half-penny, which included a new research brief on the impact of school facilities on student achievement, community mobilization calls that reached more than 24,000 people via Facebook and Zoom, volunteer phone banks that placed more than 4,000 calls, and about a dozen media appearances in support of the half-penny, including on Spanish language media.

“A decade ago, we were a community in which a minority of people were invested in public schools,” said Tutwiler Fortune. “Today, this historic victory shows that we are a community that clearly supports public schools.  Public education is the foundation of our great city and the key to an even brighter future. Thank you to everyone who made this possible tonight.”


About the Jacksonville Public Education Fund

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is an independent think-and-do tank that provides evidence-based solutions to educators and school system leaders to advance school quality. We are dedicated to closing the opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color in Duval County. Learn more at jaxpef.org.


Nov. 3, 2020


Contact: Stephanie Garry Garfunkel,

Director of Marketing & Communications

352-359-2393 or Stephanie@jaxpef.org





of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.