Every two years, voters go to the polls to vote for members Duval County School Board. But too often, these races are overshadowed by presidential, gubernatorial, and even other, more prominent local races.
That’s why we work with a coalition of nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations to raise awareness about the importance of school board elections, and to inform voters about their choices through a questionnaire and candidate forums. We find that many people do not understand the crucial role that school board members play in the direction of public schools in our community.
Here are some frequently asked questions that we hear as we have been doing this over the last several election cycles.
What does the Duval County School Board do?
Duval County has seven school board districts. The citizens living within each district elect an individual to represent them and to look out for all public school students in Duval County. School Board members are elected for a term of four years, and it is currently unclear if they are subject to term limits because this has never been contested in court. School board members are paid an annual salary of $41,836, as determined by state law.
Together, these seven people make up the School Board, which is the official policy-making body for local education-related issues and the governance of Duval County Public Schools. One of the most important roles of the seven school board members is to appoint and oversee the superintendent, who manages the day-to-day operations of the school district.
What are some of the areas that the school board addresses?
Curriculum. The school board approves curriculums for all schools. They are directly responsible for how our future accountants learn math, how our future surgeons start out in science, and how our future writers learn nuances of language.
Developing and adopting policies. The school board sets policies that govern our schools, such as the district’s code of conduct. A full list of board policies is available here. These policies outline the board’s duties in areas that range from approving collective bargaining agreements that govern teacher and staff contracts, the opening or closing of some schools and much more. The school board is also tasked with adopting policies to comply with education-related legislation like those that may come down the pipeline from the federal and state governments.
Setting the budget. Public schools are funded by tax dollars (both property, state sales tax and federal taxes). Although the state of Florida has a big say in how school districts spend their money, the school board determines how a lot of these education dollars are allocated within the school district. You can learn more about how the budget works in a 2012 Jacksonville Public Education Fund policy brief.
Overseeing facilities issues. It is the responsibility of the school board to approve or deny changes in school academic programs (like magnet programs) and which schools should remain open or should be closed down.
These are only a few of the many important decisions Duval’s school board is tasked with. Because education-related issues affect everyone, it is imperative that everyone in a community is represented.
So how do you get involved?
Empower yourself and get educated. The Duval County School Board meets at least once per month and the meetings are open to the public. Don’t want to sit in? You can watch the meetings online through streamed webcast or on local cable.
This summer, Districts 5 and 7 are up for reelection. Duval County School Board Elections Coalition will be holding candidate forums where you can go and ask the candidates questions and get to know them. If you’re not sure what district you live in, visit www.schoolboard2016.org to find out and learn about the candidates that are running in Districts 5 and 7!
VOTE. This is the easiest way to make sure your voice is represented. Here are some important dates to remember:
Deadline to register to vote: August 1
Early voting: August 15-28
Election Day: August 30
A democracy does not work if its citizens are silent.Together, we can ensure that the students coming out of the public education system are receiving the education they need to be effective members of the workforce.