Press Release: Students Speak on the Half-Penny for Public Schools

Media and the public are invited to attend. Sign up at


JACKSONVILLE, Fla., August 28, 2020 — Some of Duval County’s most prominent student leaders, who attend public schools across Duval County, will speak to education advocates, the media and the public on Monday during JPEF’s ONE by ONE call to mobilize support for the half-penny for public schools.

The Zoom event takes place on Monday, August 31, from 6-7:30 p.m. People who wish to join the call can sign up at REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. 

The engaging event will feature moderator Donna Orender, a long-serving member of the JPEF Board of Directors and the founder of Generation W and Generation WOW. Donna will lead a conversation with student leaders about their perspectives on public schools. The call will also provide advocates with urgent volunteer actions that can help the half-penny pass this fall. Warren Jones, the chairman of the Duval County School Board and the co-chair of Duval Citizens for Better Schools, the political action committee running the campaign to pass the half-penny, will also speak.

Duval County voters will decide on the half-penny for public schools in the general election on and before Nov. 3. The half-penny would support a $1.9 billion plan to renovate and revitalize public schools across the county over 15 years. Duval County has the oldest schools in the state, and it is the only urban district in Florida without a new revenue source to make up for more than a decade of funding shortfalls at the state level.

“Through JPEF’s independent research and polling, we know the half-penny for public schools is both urgently needed and widely supported in Duval County,” said JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune. “But with this pandemic, we can’t take the actual vote for granted. As we’re seeing now more than ever, public schools are foundational to our students and our economy.  That’s why we’re working so hard to mobilize the community in support of the half-penny. This is an unparalleled opportunity to move public education forward and provide a massive stimulus to our local economy.”

JPEF polling has found for six years in a row that Duval County residents are supportive of a small tax increase for public schools. In 2019, the most recent year of our poll, we asked specifically about a small tax increase for school facilities, and 78.5 percent of respondents said they supported it. JPEF has also published research showing the critical link between the quality of school buildings and student and teacher performance, showing modern school buildings help students learn and help attract and retain teachers in schools.

Student speakers, each of whom is a current student or recent graduate of a public school in Duval County, include:

  • Deyona Burton, Lee High School
  • Meghana Kopparthi, Recent Graduate, Stanton College Preparatory School
  • Savannah LeNoble, Wolfson School for Advanced Studies
  • Craig McFarland, Valedictorian, Stanton College Preparatory School (Craig was featured in the New York Times for the distinction of being accepted to all eight Ivy League universities. He is now a freshman at Harvard University.)
  • Gabriella White, River City Science Academy
  • Rebelle & Veda Gishler, John E. Ford PreK-8 Montessori School
Media and the public are welcome to attend. Registration for the Zoom event is free and available at

Contact Stephanie Garry Garfunkel, Director of Marketing & Communications, at (352) 359-2393 or for more information.

About the Jacksonville Public Education Fund
The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is a research-driven independent nonprofit organization that is working to close the opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color in Duval County. We invest in building the capacity of school leaders, teacher leaders and parent leaders to improve in school quality. For more information:




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