Urge City Council President Scott Wilson to Call a Special Meeting to Ask the City Council to Let the People Vote

Mike Hogan, Duval Supervisor of Elections, was quoted in a news article (ref 6) as saying he could get the school board’s referendum on a 2019 ballot if the Jacksonville City Council would let him know by August. Time is running out for 2019. Please urge the city council to let the people vote in 2019.

The state legislature has steadily been reducing their capital outlay funding to the school districts. Most counties have, therefore, passed referendums giving their school districts a dedicated revenue source for capital outlay. Duval County needs to do it in 2019 so the repairs and security enhancements can begin in 2020. The repairs are needed now. Ref 7

All publicly funded schools (except private schools receiving taxpayer money via vouchers authorized by the state legislators) will receive the referendum’s dedicated revenue source to be used as follows:

  1. Renovations, repairs, or rebuild based on age and condition of the taxpayer owned building.
  2. Enhanced safety and security based on a per-student and per-square-foot formula.
  3. Replace portable buildings with permanent safer buildings.

Here is why I don’t simply use the term “public schools.” In days gone by, “public schools” meant only the neighborhood schools. Now some people include charter schools in the definition. Charter schools are getting a great deal of money from our local, state and federal policy makers, but there are barely any safeguards to protect the taxpayers’ interest. But that’s an issue for another article. (ref 19) Governor DeSantis recently included private schools, funded by vouchers, when he used the term “public schools.”

I feel passionate about the school board’s referendum because I am grateful for my public education. I want kids to have the same or better opportunities than I had. Don’t we all want the best for the kids in our community? My dad was in the Navy so I went to a number of public schools throughout the country. The local neighborhood school is part of my utopian vision of liberty and justice for all.

When I was listening to City Council Member Matt Carlucci on the July 22 episode of First Coast Connect (ref 1), I was thinking of the The Andy Griffith Show. One of the public schools I attended was on a navy base. The kids in the school were a variety of colors even in 1965. So when I think of The Andy Griffith Show, I don’t think of a community of all white people. I think of a community of people all trying to get along, all trying to be polite, all wanting the best for all the children of the community. Matt Carlucci was polite and cordial as he spoke of the need to make all our schools great for all the children of our community.

I applaud Council Member Carlucci, a Republican, for being a leader and urging his colleagues to do the right thing and let the people vote. I believe the people will vote to give the school board a dedicated revenue stream to repair the schools. My belief is not without evidence, a poll said 83% of the people would vote yes on the referendum. Ref 5

I find it sad that some on the city council are putting up roadblocks to getting the school buildings repaired. For example, some city council members asked questions, at the city council meetings, they could have asked months ago when the community meetings were announced by the school board. To his credit, City Council President Scott Wilson finally asked all the city council members to send their questions to OGC who would compile them and forward the questions to the Superintendent and the School Board. The Times Union put the list in the cloud for all, who cared, to read.  Ref 3

Some of the questions on the list don’t appear to be in good faith. For example, one of the council members asks about all the lawsuits that have been brought due to desegregation. If the council member’s goal is to alert the public to the past and present misdeeds of elected government officials, then wouldn’t it be better for her to write an op-ed piece? I don’t see how her question is relevant to the school board’s referendum. Couldn’t her staff do the research about those lawsuits? Why ask the school board to do the research?

Some of the questions on the list indicate many city council members want charter schools to take a more prominent role in the education of our children. The charter school movement was begun as a way to allow teachers to experiment with various teaching methods that, if proven successful, could be later used in the neighborhood schools. But the charter school movement has changed since its humble beginnings. Can’t we make all the neighborhood schools great? Can’t various choices (vocational, college-prep, teaching styles, etc) be incorporated into the neighborhood schools? Duplicate education systems, charter school and the neighborhood schools, are more expensive. Ref 10 I know some parents love the charter school where their children attend, but we need to increase the safeguards against abuse (financial and lack of educational standards) before we let charter schools increase in number. Also, what will happen to the neighborhood schools if the taxpayers are unwilling to fund a duplicate parallel system? Isn’t it better to increase the choices within the neighborhood school?

Please google “profits in the charter school industry.” Ref 17 I hope that will make you outraged and cause you to question the desire of some city leaders who are holding the school board’s referendum hostage, demanding the school board change their referendum to “promise charter schools an upfront $150 million payment.” Ref 11

A concerned citizen, David, at a July 16th city council committee meeting, spoke during the audience comment period of his experience as a young boy in Alabama. Tears come to my eyes as I recall him repeating his mother’s words: “That is not equal.”  My vision (and apparently David’s) is for all the schools to be superb, with the goal being for all the kids to have a chance at great opportunities in life. Why won’t some on the city council allow the voters to give the school board the revenue stream to do what I believe they want to do, i.e. make all our schools great?

One of City Council Member Cumber’s questions (on the list) is relevant only if she doesn’t plan to let the people vote in November 2019. ref 4 A November 2019 date would be preferable, but if the city council won’t vote in time, then the December date would be the next best alternative. For the repairs to begin in 2020, the referendum needs to be approved by the voters in 2019.

Another one of Council Member Cumber’s questions was about the city’s credit rating, which is pertinent to a bond issue not a dedicated revenue source. Can the city council control the school board’s bond requests? If yes, then that is when she should be asking her questions about the effect on the city’s credit rating. ref 8

 The School District’s Superintendent has answered the city council members’ questions (on the list) including Council Member Cumber’s questions about the city’s credit rating. You can read the Superintendent’s answers at this link.  Ref 9

As far as questions about which schools will be closed, renovated, or rebuilt; you can find the details and the reasoning at “see the plan” at this link:  https://www.ourduvalschools.org/

Anyone can ask questions of our elected officials, but many of the questions on the city council’s list weren’t relevant to the desire to get a dedicated revenue stream for the repair and increased safety of our neighborhood schools. Some of the questions on the list make the city council member look like they want to be part of the elected school board. The voters elected the school board members and it is frustrating the city council is trying to stop the school board from doing what they were elected to do.

The city council should let the voters vote on the school board’s referendum on the November 2019 ballot as requested. The city council needs to act NOW for Mike Hogan, Duval Supervisor of Election, to do his part.

 

 

Ref 1 Matt Carlucci on First Coast Connect https://news.wjct.org/post/72219-councilman-matt-carlucci-if-you-want-make-god-laugh-cole-pepper

Ref 2 Matt Carlucci speaking at July 16th City Council Committee meeting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jTDGdiAfI0

Ref 3 The list of city council members’ questions that they sent to the school board

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6219594-2019-380-Council-Member-Questions.html

Ref 4  Florida Statute Title 14, Chap. 212.054 (7)(a)

The governing body of any county levying a discretionary sales surtax or the school board of any county levying the school capital outlay surtax authorized by s. 212.055(6) shall notify the department within 10 days after final adoption by ordinance or referendum of an imposition, termination, or rate change of the surtax, but no later than November 16 prior to the effective date. …

Ref 5  83% (.49 +.34) support the sales tax increase . That’s amazing!  The sales tax increase will be $1.50 per month (if you spend $3,600 a year on taxable items per year) in order to give the school board a dedicated revenue stream to repair the schools. https://www.news4jax.com/news/florida/duval-county/unf-poll-voters-support-half-cent-sales-tax-to-benefit-schools

Ref 6 https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/jacksonville/all-sides-met-on-duval-county-school-sales-tax-issue

ref 7 https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20190531/nate-monroe-text-messages-detail-daily-breakdowns-needed-repairs-in-duval-schools

ref 8 https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20190719/nate-monroe-schools-dont-hurt-city-credit-ratings-city-leaders-do

ref 9  https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20190731/school-board-answers-city-councils-laundry-list-of-referendum-questions

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6228491-City-Council-Response-073119.html

https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3A8d9325bc-73cf-49bd-9d01-b7351e5408bf

ref 10 You can google this and get other articles that back up my statement

https://gadflyonthewallblog.com/2019/06/15/charter-schools-will-always-waste-money-because-they-duplicate-services/

ref 11 https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20190730/is-150-million-payment-to-charters-needed-to-pass-duval-schools-tax-referendum

ref 12 This is what will be on our OFFICIAL BALLOT if the city council will let us vote:

To upgrade aging schools through repairs and modernization, to keep schools safe and to continue to promote a conducive learning environment, to improve technology, and to replace existing or build new schools, shall the Duval County School Board be authorized to levy a 15-year half-cent sales surtax, with expenditures based upon the Surtax Capital Outlay Plan, and monitored by an independent citizens committee?

​____  For the Half-Cent Tax

____  Against the Half-Cent Tax

ref 13 Quote from below link:

Around the state, even in some heavily conservative counties, voters are opening their wallets to lend extra support to their schools. Of 10 local education funding measures on the Aug. 28 ballot, every single one passed.  …  For some, the widening effort suggests the public may be warming to the argument that Florida schools need better funding. … “The citizens recognize that the Florida public schools are the backbone of our future,” said Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, “They want to invest in quality schools. If we let our educational system and our facilities decay, that will have a negative impact on Florida’s economy and on the citizens of Florida.”

https://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/More-Florida-counties-are-voting-to-raise-local-taxes-for-schools-Is-it-a-message-to-lawmakers-_171522390

ref 14 If you read the article at ref 11, don’t get tripped up like I did. Florida Coalition of School Board Members is a pro-charter and pro-voucher and organization that does NOT represent the majority of school board members. Here is more about them:  https://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/2018/11/26/whither-the-florida-school-board-members-coalition/

ref 15 Go to this link: https://www.ourduvalschools.org/see-the-plans for details about the school board’s referendum. Scroll down to the end of that page and click on “View the original master plans.” Then scroll down and click on “Download the District 3 PDF” [or whatever school district you’re looking for] The pdf that will appear on your screen will tell you when the Community Meeting took place, and the utilization of various neighborhood schools

Ref 16 I wonder if the lawsuit mentioned in this article (http://folioweekly.com/stories/enough-is-enough,21674 ) can go fast enough to get the referendum on a 2019 ballot.

Ref 17 Google “profits, real estate, charter schools” and you’ll get many suggestions, here is one:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/petergreene/2018/08/13/how-to-profit-from-your-non-profit-charter-school/#304656b83354

Quoted from this article:
Two South Florida real estate investment companies, ESJ Capital Partners and MG3 Developer Group, have sold two charter school properties in Florida to their operator for a combined $45M. “[ESJ Capital Partners] has become a nationwide leader on investing in alternative assets within the educational arena, providing a bridge for charter school management organizations to eventually own the properties they operate in,” an ESJ spokesperson wrote in an email.
https://www.bisnow.com/south-florida/news/economy/florida-charter-school-real-estate-98192

Charter Schools Used Shady Real Estate Deals to Shamelessly Enrich Themselves.
Quote from an article with that title:
Preston C. Green, Bruce D. Baker and Joseph O. Oluwole said the biggest way to grab seven-figure sums in the privatized education sphere was through shady real estate transactions.
Here is the link to the paper by Preston C. Green, Bruce D. Baker and Joseph O. Oluwole:
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2924886

ref 18 Article at this link talks about a great speech by Republican Thomas Lee where he says the charter industry said they could teach kids for less, but they keep asking for more and more money.  He said “enough is enough.”
http://accountabaloney.com/index.php/2019/05/06/hb7123-is-a-bridge-too-far-and-president-lee

ref 19 http://www.integrityflorida.org/the-hidden-costs-of-charter-school-choice-privatizing-public-education-in-florida/

Folio lets people submit articles on their website and provides a link to the submission:

http://folioweekly.com/detail.html?sub_id=21695

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