JPEF President published in the Florida Times-Union: Duval’s school system has responded well to dramatic changes

Rachael Tutwiler Fortune writes about the impact of coronavirus on public schools -- and the need to support our most vulnerable children.


JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune spoke out in the Florida Times-Union, celebrating the hard work of Duval County educators in responding to COVID-19 and sharing how JPEF and the community are stepping up to help. The following column appeared in the Times-Union on May 7, 2020.

Our public schools have pulled off a remarkable feat with the transition to home learning amid the coronavirus crisis.

Duval County’s public school leaders and educators should be applauded for their heroic efforts to bring learning, food and school supplies to students with creativity and speed.

Our public schools play a critical role in our community, especially for our students who are living in poverty, facing family instability or dealing with other challenges at home. Home learning is particularly challenging for parents who are working two or three jobs to make ends meet and don’t have the option to be at home supervising their children’s learning.

To support our most vulnerable children, we must recognize the need for investments in education in Jacksonville.

In the short term, we are working with system leaders and the teachers and principals we support to identify technology and supply needs and quickly fill them. We are grateful to several generous donors for their support of educators in the transition to virtual learning.

In the long term, we must continue our focus on investing in the leadership skills of principals, teachers and parents. For example, Cedar Hills Elementary Principal Marva McKinney, whom we support through our School Leadership Initiative, led a caravan of teachers who drove by students’ houses, a creative way to encourage students while maintaining social distancing. This is the kind of leadership that makes a difference for kids and keeps them motivated to succeed.

And we need a half-penny sales tax for our school facilities more than ever. Our school buildings are in dire shape in large part because funding was never restored after the last recession in 2008. If we don’t double down on supporting our schools and pass a half-penny sales tax this fall, the situation is only going to get worse. A sales tax can bring much needed economic activity to our city and better school buildings for our children, especially those living in impoverished neighborhoods.

It’s unclear when this crisis will be over. But the mission of our public schools, in good times and bad, is to give our children an equal chance of success in life. We’re committed to helping make that happen during the coronavirus pandemic and long into the future. Stand in the gap with us.

Rachael Tutwiler Fortune is the president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.




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