Please send this to your representatives in Florida’s Congress

Please propose legislation that will require any school receiving public funds (either directly or indirectly) to follow Florida Statute 1003.42.

Excerpt from f.s. 1003.42 (g):

 [a required course that will teach] …… the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions.

If legislators are going to continue giving our tax money to charters and private schools, then each law that spells out rules for the neighborhood school needs to explicitly say if the charter school and private school receiving voucher money has to follow that law also.

Governor DeSantis said any school receiving public funds is a public school.  What does he mean?  Does he mean that any school receiving public funds should be required to follow the same rules as the neighborhood school?

Thank you,

Please send this to your city council representative

I was shocked to hear about the terrible condition some of our school buildings are in.  I don’t understand why some on the city council are hesitating to let the school board put this on the ballot in November 2019.  The school board said they’d pay for the election out of their budget.

The philanthropic organization JPEF says the voters want the repairs to be made.   ref 1   Since the issue is clear cut, I don’t think massive super PAC money is needed to get this passed as was needed for Mayor Curry to get his sales tax increase passed to fix the pension debacle in August of 2016.

Please vote yes on 2019-380 which will allow the school board to put the referendum on the November 2019 ballot.

Hopefully philanthropists will donate money to make the neighborhood school grounds even more beautiful for our communities.  Beautiful buildings and beautiful parks add to our quality of life.

We need to start these repairs soon.  According to the website of the philanthropic organization JPEF , funding from the state has been decreasing over the years, and therefore Duval County Public Schools haven’t been able to accommodate the demand for building upgrades.  According to that same website, the Duval County School District is the only district in Florida that doesn’t have a dedicated revenue source from either impact fees or sales taxes. ref 2

Because state funding sources have decreased so significantly, there is not enough predictable funding to back a bond issue. If the voters vote yes on the referendum in November 2019, then the predictable dedicated revenue source will enable the district to issue bonds and accelerate work on the highest priority school projects. ref 3

Dr. Greene was hired as the superintendent because the elected school board members felt she had the skills to fix the problems.  And part of the equation was putting a referendum on the ballot.  Quote from a TU article:  School Board chairwoman Lori Hershey said “I have in my office several master plans that never got off the ground” because we need a dedicated revenue source to tackle the problems.

Thanks,

ref 1 https://www.jaxpef.org/news/teachers-and-parents-speak-out-on-public-schools:

ref 2 https://www.jaxpef.org/news/tax-referendum:

ref 3 https://www.ourduvalschools.org/

If you haven’t already signed these voter initiatives, why not?

If you haven’t already signed these and you want to sign one, then please print it  from the My Florida website.  Be sure to print on both sides of the paper if the petition is a front and back.  There is an address on each petition as to where to mail it.

Details of below initiative can be found at this link:
https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/initdetail.asp?account=64632&seqnum=5
BALLOT SUMMARY: Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Two highest vote getters advance to general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held and winner is determined in general election. Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on ballot as provided by law. Effective January 1, 2024.

Details of below initiative can be found at this link:
https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/initdetail.asp?account=70490&seqnum=3
BALLOT SUMMARY: Prohibits possession of assault weapons, defined as semiautomatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device. Possession of handguns is not prohibited. Exempts military and law enforcement personnel in their official duties. Exempts and requires registration of assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to this provision’s effective date. Creates criminal penalties for violations of this amendment.

Details of below initiative can be found at this link:
https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/initdetail.asp?account=73891&seqnum=1
BALLOT SUMMARY: Requires State to provide Medicaid coverage to individuals over age 18 and under age 65 whose incomes are at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level and meet other nonfinancial eligibility requirements, with no greater burdens placed on eligibility, enrollment, or benefits for these newly eligible individuals compared to other Medicaid beneficiaries. Directs Agency for Health Care Administration to implement the initiative by maximizing federal financial participation
for newly eligible individuals.

Details of below initiative can be found at this link:
https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/initdetail.asp?account=70115&seqnum=1
BALLOT SUMMARY: Raises minimum wage to $10.00 per hour effective September 30th, 2021. Each September 30th thereafter, minimum wage shall increase by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour on September 30th, 2026. From that point forward, future minimum wage increases shall revert to being adjusted annually for inflation starting September 30th, 2027.

Do charter schools have to follow the same rules as neighborhood schools?

If politicians are going to keep giving our tax money to charters and private schools, then we need to explicitly spell out which regulations they must follow   Said another way: each law that spells out rules for the neighborhood school needs to explicitly say if the charter school and private school receiving voucher money has to follow it also

My understanding is Scott Shine and some of the lobbying groups he represents are pushing for the taxpayers to fund more charter schools.  Do charter schools and private schools that receive voucher money have to follow 1003.42? And if they don’t have to follow 1003.42, then are any state legislators pushing a bill for the next legislative session that will require any school receiving public funds (either directly or indirectly) to follow 1003.42?

I am glad this is part of the requirement in 1003.42:

(g) ……, to be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions.

Here is how the statute describes schools that have to follow 1003.42:

1) Each district school board shall provide all courses required for middle grades promotion, high school graduation, and appropriate instruction designed to ensure that students meet State Board of Education adopted standards in the following subject areas: reading and other language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, foreign languages, health and physical education, and the arts.

(2) Members of the instructional staff of the public schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education and the district school board, shall teach efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required that meet the highest standards for professionalism and historic accuracy, following the prescribed courses of study, and employing approved methods of instruction, the following….

The more I read about Scott Shine, the more I wonder why Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman appointed him to the Charter Revision Commission. I also wonder why more of the city council members didn’t vote to defer the vote on Shine’s confirmation so there would be time to investigate why Shine missed so many school board meetings when he was  being paid by the taxpayer to attend those meetings.

The community gets to elect the local school board members. We hope the elected school board members will be making the best decisions for our local schools. They need to budget for where to build new schools.  I find the below quote very troubling.  Does it mean Scott Shine wants the state to make decisions on how the school board spends funds to build new schools?

Quote from January 2019 https://news.wjct.org/post/former-duval-school-board-member-helps-launch-statewide-school-choice-movement:
Another policy change the trio (Scott Shine, Shawn Frost and Erika Donalds) want to make is to give the  responsibility to the state for approval of new charter schools.

 If my memory serves me correctly, a council member (at the rules committee meeting on June 4th) asked Scott Shine why he missed so many meetings when he was a school board member.  Mr. Shine answered that he only missed two meetings where votes took place.  Was he lying? Can you find out how many meetings he missed?

What should you do about bullying?

First we’ll have to define “you” and “bullying” if we’re going to discuss my question.

Is making bigoted comments a form of bullying?

If yes, should you always say something?
Cute video:

Other things to cover in the discussion:

1. Quote from this Psychology Today article

I have written about workplace bullying and bullying in schools. The incidents that I’ve heard and written about have not involved bullying toward specific groups of people, such as ethnic minorities or gay or lesbian individuals (although we know that this occurs with greater frequency), but persons from all walks of life who are singled out as targets of bullies.

2. Quotes from this article:

Helping kids to understand and identify bullying techniques early on in their lives is an important aspect of combating this problem. Young children, especially, should be encouraged to let their parents and teachers know when they are being harassed by other students. They should also be encouraged to expose cases of bullying when they see it happen to their peers.

Information about 1003.42

In 1994, the Florida Legislature passed the Holocaust Education Bill (SB 660) which amends Section 233.061 of the Florida Statutes (Chapter 94-14, Laws of Florida), relating to required instruction. The law requires all school districts to incorporate lessons on the Holocaust as part of public school instruction. The statute reads as follows:
The history of the Holocaust (1933-1945), the systematic planned annihilation of European Jews and other groups by Nazi Germany, a watershed event in the history of humanity, to be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions.

What do you think of this program to give voucher money to a kid that claims to have been bullied but leaves the bully in the public school? Why not spend money on reducing the bullying? Quote from this article:

The Florida Legislature passed a bill in 2018 that is the “first state-supported scholarship in America aimed at helping K-12 students victimized by bullying,” according to Step Up for Students [an organization that profits from administering state voucher programs].

A few quotes from this article

Bullying in schools, ranging from elementary to high school, has reached epidemic proportions. But bullying doesn’t stop there. Bullying in college, in the workplace, and against minority group members of all ages is rampant. …. What is being done about the bullying epidemic, and what can be done? … High-profile cases of bullied teens’ suicides, and now the instances of college bullying and hazing, are leading many schools to develop anti-bullying policies. … We need to rethink our attitudes toward bullying, and incivility in general. As parents, we need to ensure that we are not encouraging teasing and bullying behavior in our children. We need to support anti-bullying programs in our schools and workplaces. We simply need to be more respectful and tolerant of others, and of others’ differences. I find it ironic that the time, money, and energy spent on trying to stop gay marriage, is many times greater than the resources devoted to protecting LGBT persons from bullying. Resources:
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/se/bullyres.asp
http://www.workplacebullying.org/

Here is what the FLDOE says:
http://www.fldoe.org/newsroom/latest-news/commissioner-of-education-announces-enhanced-mental-health-requirements-for-florida-schools.stml

Here are my questions:
1. Is the state providing funding for this course?
2. If yes, is it adequate to hire specialized teachers?
3. Is this course required of all public schools? If yes, how are they defining public schools? Are they using DeSantis’s definition that any school that receives public funds is a public school so that charters and private schools that receive voucher money must also include this as a required class?
4. This class would be a great place to include some of the curriculum required in f.s. 1003.42(g). Is 1003.42(g) required of charter schools and private schools receiving voucher money? In case you don’t see the connection, 1003.42(g) also aims to reduce bullying.

Quote from News Service Florida article:
“TALLAHASSEE — Public schools will be required to teach students at least five hours of mental health instruction beginning in 6th grade, under a mandate approved by the state Board of Education Wednesday and hailed by Florida’s top educator as a “life saver.” The new requirement will require students to take courses aimed at helping them to identify the signs and symptoms of mental illness, find resources if they are battling with depression or other issues, and teach them how to help peers who are struggling with a mental health disorder. The five-hour minimum will be included in curriculums for grades 6-12. “We know that 50 percent of all mental illness cases begin by age 14, so we are being proactive in our commitment to provide our kids with the necessary tools to see them through their successes and challenges,” DeSantis, the mother of two young children, said in a statement. “Providing mental health instruction is another important step forward in supporting our families.” Under the new rule, school districts will be able to choose the types of classes children will be required to take, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters. The instruction includes courses about cyberbullying, suicide prevention and the impact of substance abuse.

 

What is the answer to bullying?
 
My understanding, and I admit I don’t know much, is that the community school concept could help the school with that issue. See page 11 of this report.
 

I was troubled at the city council meeting on May 28, 2019

I went to a city council meeting Tuesday night. I went to support Earl as he gave his secular humanist invocation. I stayed to speak during the comment period in support of  the city council allowing the school board to ask the voters for a dedicated revenue stream to keep the neighborhood schools in good repair.

The city council talked mostly about internet cafes. I didn’t understand their banter. I’m glad the Times Union wrote an article about it which you can read at this link:
https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20190529/jacksonville-city-council-cracks-down-on-simulated-gambling

I still have questions.

I don’t have a problem with gambling being illegal. BUT shouldn’t we be consistent? Is there other problems to gambling other than the addiction issue? Why is the lottery OK but not these internet cafes? IF these machines are so bad, why do nonprofits get to operate them? In response to this part of the article: “The bill lets nonprofits operate gaming events twice a year …”

I wish someone would write a more detailed article about this part of the article:

“If the city doesn’t enforce the rules, a change drafted by Councilman John Crescimbeni would let residents do it themselves by going to court and seeking a judge’s order through a process called injunctive relief. A similar process has been used to prod the city to enforce its rules protecting trees from being eliminated for development, Crescimbeni said, noting that the city is required to pay attorney fees for successful resident challenges.”

Is the above quote saying residents can sue the city? Why the city? Why don’t they sue the landlord or the operator? And for the tree ordinance, why don’t they sue the violator? Why the city? I fund the city with my tax dollars. I’m not sure I’m in favor of making it easier to sue the city unless some city official is biased or negligent then hopefully the lawsuit results in a firing. No? Am I wrong?

I can understand that citizens don’t want unsavory characters in their neighborhoods. That is what zoning laws are for, yes? In response to this part of the article: “We have a problem where people are coming from outside our state and outside our county..”

Some of the council members said the citizens are complaining about the internet cafes. What exactly is the complaint? Unwelcome tourists? In response to this part of the article: “We have families that are reaching out to us and they’re begging us to do something about it.” One council member asked if a vacant building would be worse than an internet cafe.

The crime mentioned in the article is people robbing these places because they have a lot of cash on hand. Why are these cafes more vulnerable to robbery than other businesses with cash?

I am worried about Gulliford’s desire to hank someone’s city certificate with 5 days notice when they haven’t done anything illegal. The ones without COU’s can already be prosecuted according to the way I read the article. I am glad that cooler heads prevailed and the city council gave the business with valid COU’s six months before they hank their COU.

Is this legal? Landlords being punished for someone else’s crime? How will landlords know what their tenants are doing? In response to this part of the article: “Property owners who let someone else operate the machines in their buildings can be fined $1,000 for each violation” Hopefully the landlord will get a warning and help with their eviction proceedings.

Some council members mentioned that they are voting yes on the bill because they’ve driven by these internet cafes. Doesn’t that strike you as odd? What business is next? Maybe the internet cafes should be illegal BUT the reasoning of “I drove by one” makes NO sense to me.

I also hated Gulliford’s joke toward the end of the city council meeting where he simulated shooting someone. How distasteful for an elected official to say that. I wasn’t able to trim the video perfectly so a couple of council members speak before and after Gulliford makes his joke in this clip:

It smells like partisan politics to me. Did these internet cafes not give enough campaign dollars to Curry? Maybe I’m just too cynical these days.

Quotes from article:
110 businesses hold city certificates authorizing them to operate….
“We’ve already begun with the non-COU holders,” Hughes said. ”… We’re prepared to move forward.”

Here is the link to the proposed ordinance:

http://cityclts.coj.net/coj/COJbillDetail.asp?F=2019-0209\Current%20Text

BUT the bill raises more questions also.   Quote from the proposed bill:

WHEREAS, gaming and gambling are not presently lawful in the City;

 

Thoughts and links on HB 741

I was following HB 741 thru the various committees during the recent Florida legislative session. I found it fascinating that it passed unanimously. (ref 1)

Representative Kimberly Daniels mentioned the so-called Messianic Jews as she stated her support for the bill called antisemitism. Representative Daniels makes her comment about Messianic Jews around the 2 hour and 16 minute mark in the video. Link to the video (in case you want to hear Representative Daniels): https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/VideoPlayer.aspx?eventID=2443575804_2019031312

I wonder if anyone mentioned this to Representative Kimberly Daniels: “​V​arious Christian leaders have publicly criticized Messianic Jews for their aggressive missionizing in the Jewish community and for misrepresenting themselves as Jews.” (Ref 2)

I know many people were outraged when Vice President Pence invited a so-called Messianic Jewish Rabbi to give a prayer after the murders at a synagogue. Here is a link to one article talking about that: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/30/us/mike-pence-rabbi-jacobs.html  When I originally read the news, I (like Representative Daniels) didn’t understand the history of the Messianic Jewish movement. A friend explained it to me. Hopefully someone explained to Representative Daniels why bringing up the so-called Messianic Jews while expressing support for an antisemitic bill was inappropriate.

Representative Fine said his bill HB 741 is trying to address a growing fever of antisemitism.  In the Florida House Education Committee (link above) and the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee (link below) you can hear many people express their support for Israel and their sadness over the existence of antisemitism in this country.

The bill was heard in the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee on April 8th, here is the link (discussion of HB 741 begins around minute 20):
http://www.flsenate.gov/media/videoplayer?EventID=2443575804_2019041108&Redirect=true

During the session when the Florida House voted on HB 741, they started the meeting with “In Jesus’s Name We Pray.” I thought that was odd. Here is the link to the  video: http://www.flsenate.gov/media/VideoPlayer?EventID=2443575804_2019041146
The prayer is at the beginning of the meeting. They discuss HB 741 (the antisemitism bill) beginning around the 3 hour and 45 minute mark.

Representative Fine spoke up and put into Florida law that antisemitic language is not welcome in Florida. You can hear him say (in the full house meeting on April 10th–see link above) that the law won’t put anyone in jail for saying mean stupid things. The bill clarifies and acknowledges that words matter and some words make people feel excluded.

I continue to wish that HB 741 would apply to not only the public schools but also to the private schools receiving voucher money. Since some of the most vocal Christians mentioned their love of Israel rather than their disdain for antisemitic language in the debate of the bill, I do wonder about their motives of adding “religion” in the list in Florida Statute 1000.05. These days, when people add religion to a list I wonder if instead of using it as a shield to protect against discrimination, they want to use religion as a sword to harm others.

Quote from this article https://www.npr.org/2019/05/23/724135760/how-the-fight-for-religious-freedom-has-fallen-victim-to-the-culture-wars:

“RFRA was originally enacted to serve as a safeguard for religious freedom,” he said, “but recently it’s been used a sword to cut down the civil rights of too many individuals.”

There is a lot in the bill I don’t understand. And I do wish the definition of antisemitic language was broader so it included the definition of bigoted language in general.  However, there is something cool about 100% of the Florida legislators saying antisemitic language should not be used.  I do worry, however, that the dominionist christians have ulterior motives,

I read a Huffington Post article (see quote below) and it made me wonder why Governor DeSantis is signing HB 741 in Israel.  Governor to sign HB 741 in Israel.

Quote from this article: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/opinion-ingersoll-jerusalem-embassy-end-times_n_5afae504e4b09a94524c312c

…Some heard in those prayers generic messages about peace and the safety of Israel. Some Evangelical Christians heard that they, and their fellow believers, are at the center of God’s plan for history. And they heard loud and clear the essential message that, despite his failings, the president is playing his part.

These are the questions I’d like answered by Representative Fine (the sponsor of the bill):
1.  What do you think of Representative Daniel’s  mention of the so-called Messianic Jews?
2.  What do you think of Representative Sullivan’s emphasize on Israel rather than on antisemitism?
3.  Will adding religion to 1000.05 create problems similar to how RFRA created problems?  In other words, will this be used not only to provide a shield against discrimination but as a sword to harm others?  If a religion’s tenets call for harm to others, how will this be sorted out?  I recently read an article that a legislator said his religious beliefs say that the races shouldn’t mingle.  I have heard that some religions condemn homosexuality.   Some religions require that wives obey their husbands.  How will these things be sorted out?
4.  Why didn’t you include wording to make sure the bill applies to any school that receives public funding?  Does it cover the charter schools?  Does it cover the private schools receiving voucher money? If not, why not?
5.  Could you tell me more about the statute that Representative Thompson mentioned? Is every school in Florida that receives public funds required to teach details of the holocaust? (ref 3)

Representative Sullivan expresses her support of Israel but makes no mention of antisemitism when she speaks at the 2 hour and 23 minute mark
Education Committee–03/21/19 https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/VideoPlayer.aspx?eventID=2443575804_2019031312

House Session 4/10/2019  starts around the 3 hour and 45 minutes mark:
http://www.flsenate.gov/media/VideoPlayer?EventID=2443575804_2019041146
Some of the quotes from the session:
Representative Fine says that antisemitism is increasing.
Representative Fine says it applies to public schools.  [BUT how does he define “public schools”?  Does it mean any schools receiving public funds even private schools receiving voucher money?]
The first part of the bill is merely the definition of antisemitism.
Representative Fine says the bill does not criminalize antisemitism.  People are allowed to be anti-Semites and racists.
Representative Thompson says there is a statute that requires that public schools require the teaching about the Holocaust

References
1. https://www.timesofisrael.com/florida-senate-passes-anti-semitism-bill/

2. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/messianic-judaism/

3. https://www.adl.org/blog/why-we-need-legislation-to-ensure-the-holocaust-is-taught-in-schools

Duval County Public Schools Voluntary Half-Penny Sales Tax Referendum

A great link to look for information about the referendum for a dedicated revenue source for the neighborhood schools:

https://www.ourduvalschools.org/

A great article by Superintendent Green:

https://www.jacksonville.com/opinion/20190519/guest-column-superintendent-says-voters-should-decide-on-funding-new-school-facilities

The below is mostly copied from something a friend sent me.

I only made minor adjustments to what my friend sent me.  The difference in what I was sent and what is listed below is in these two bullet points:
Why not use impact fees to meet the district’s needs?  <==I hope we’ll also do impact fees at some future date so that’s how I changed that bullet point.
How much will this tax cost me?  <==I showed the calculation for what the increase would cost rather than just giving a number for an average household.

Duval County Public Schools Voluntary Half-Penny Sales Tax Referendum

Questions and Answers
How does support for Duval County Public Schools compare to other districts?
Tampa (Hillsborough County) was the latest county to invest in its students and schools through a local tax referendum. Orlando (Orange County) voters approved this voluntary tax a few years ago. Locally, St. Johns County is also supporting its schools with this optional half-penny, and Clay County Schools benefit from a similar, though slightly different tax. Many other smaller districts in Florida are choosing to invest in schools to better prepare their students and to compete for job growth through economic development.

Why is this voluntary half-penny sales tax being proposed?
The tax is being proposed because of three major issues facing the district.
1. Duval County’s school building are the oldest in the state, and old buildings (just like old homes and old cars) require significant maintenance and upkeep.
2. The funding previously received from the State of Florida to support the repair, renovation and construction of schools has been cut significantly over the last decade. Maintenance and facility challenges are already causing major operational issues at schools, and unless new revenue is created, these operational issues – including closing classroom and possibly closing schools – will continue to increase.
3. Most important, high quality school facilities have a significant impact on student achievement. Many other districts here on the First Coast and throughout Florida are investing in their schools to ensure their students are best prepared with skills and capabilities to compete for today’s much more advanced jobs.

How do improved school buildings contribute to student achievement?
Quality school buildings have been found to contribute to student achievement in several ways:
• They provide light, acoustics, and air quality that directly impact learning.
• They offer inviting spaces that emanate a sense of warmth and community that enhances student self-belief and desire to be in school.
• They provide technology that optimizes instruction and prepares students for today’s workplace.
• They communicate to children that their community values education.
• They are built to maximize student security and safety in today’s unpredictable world. When students know they are in a safe space, they can better focus on learning.

Can’t the district borrow money by issuing bonds?
The district issued bonds and continues to pay that debt for schools such as Atlantic Coast High School and Waterleaf Elementary School, which were built many years ago. To take on debt through bonds, the bonds must be backed with a predictable source of revenue. Because state funding sources have decreased so significantly, there is not enough predictable funding to back a bond issue. If the voluntary half-penny tax is successful, that predictable revenue will enable the district to issue bonds and accelerate work on the highest priority school projects.

Why not use impact fees to meet the district’s needs?
Impact fees can only be used in schools where future development would have an impact on expected school enrollment. Many of the schools that need the most attention are not located in areas where development is occurring. Impact fees could not be assigned to the already approved new development projects retroactively.  Certainly I hope that the city council will consider impact fees BEFORE they approve NEW developments that will require the building of new schools.

Why should I support this tax, especially if I don’t have children or grandchildren attending public schools?
Public education impacts everyone. It results in higher incomes, better jobs, rising property values and a healthy economy. Today’s students are your doctors, nurses, engineers, and technicians of tomorrow. Our parents, grandparents, and neighbors paid for education for each of us. Investing in the next generation is a time-honored American value. Specifically, new and improved school buildings will:
• make neighborhoods more desirable for current and future residents,
• have a positive impact on property values,
• send a positive message to future businesses that Jacksonville values education (education and workforce preparation are among the most important variables in attracting new jobs), and
• provide neighborhoods with better shelters during hurricanes and other emergencies.

How will I know if the school district is doing what it says it will do with the money?
A Citizen Oversight Committee will review the spending, progress and completion of all projects. They will have access to and regularly review all records to make sure money is spent as promised. The members of the committee cannot be employed by our district or benefit financially from the projects.

How much will this tax cost me?
The increased percentage is .005. As you know the sales tax is only applied to certain purchases (called taxable items), e.g. not food you consume in your home and not medicine. If you purchase $5,000 a year of those taxable items, then the proposed .005 increase would cost you $25 a year.

Will this tax last forever?
No, the tax would expire in 15 years unless residents voted to renew the tax.

Does any of this money go to School Board or administrative salaries?
No. By law, money from this initiative can only be spent on school security upgrades, technology infrastructure, school renovations, new schools and large maintenance needs.

What about the money from the Florida Lottery, doesn’t that fund schools?
Our school district does receive some money from the Florida Lottery. It’s a relatively small portion of our total budget, and the State of Florida mandates that almost all of it be used for specific programs. That means it is not available for maintenance, renovation or construction of schools. With thousands of teachers and more than 160 schools, the amount of funding the district receives from the lottery would only fund the district for about one school day.

What’s the difference between capital and operational money?
*Capital dollars are for buildings, maintenance, technology, security, and repaying money borrowed to make capital improvements in the past. Revenue from a half-penny sales tax can only be used on capital expenses.
*Operational money is largely for salaries, along with overhead expenses, such as utilities, materials, and classroom supplies.

What would happen if voters do not approve the half-penny sales tax for education?
*Failure to get new funding through the sales surtax would mean our students would face a future in aging, rapidly deteriorating schools and would likely result in school closures and expanded use of portables. The cost to maintain current buildings, which are often more than 50 years old, is quickly growing beyond the funding the district receives for maintenance. Life safety systems, such as fire alarms and sprinklers, will always be a priority. But as air conditioning systems, roofing, electrical and other systems fail, the district will be forced to close schools it can’t afford to repair or replace.
*Needed maintenance and renovations on existing buildings would continue to be deferred due to lack of revenue, eventually costing more money in the future due to building and equipment failures.

How would the additional funds raised through a sales tax be used?
100 percent of the funds would be used to cover the cost of projects in the district’s master facilities plan. The plan identifies physical safety and security upgrades at every school (school hardening) major renovations or full school replacements, and consolidation of schools into more efficient facilities, all constructed to enhance learning and the student experience. The master plan remains in development. It will be completed no later than this summer so voters can see how each school will benefit with the new revenue. A citizen oversight committee will monitor expenditures of the new revenue to ensure those funds are properly spent on the priorities identified in the master plan.

What question will voters see on the November ballot regarding the half-penny sales tax for education?
OFFICIAL BALLOT
School District of Duval County, Florida
Special Election – November 5, 2019
School Capital Outlay Sales Surtax to Improve
Safety and the Learning Environment
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

Interfaith

I have been pondering the term interfaith.

Earl and I recently attended an interfaith group’s community supper.  A woman asked us why atheists would want to be a part of an interfaith group.  Does “interfaith” mean an organization that is promoting a belief in God similar to the way the Baptist Church is promoting a belief in Jesus as the savior?

Churches and interfaith groups sometimes offer programs to the whole community.   I lived a few years of my young life in a small town in Georgia.  I grew up Baptist but the Baptists don’t dance.  The Methodist Church offered youth events which included dancing.  I attended the dances as did the mayor’s son who was Jewish.  Neither one of us planned to become Methodist but for some reason we didn’t feel uncomfortable at the Methodist Church.  We didn’t belong to the church but we did feel welcomed.  Of course, while I was there no one asked my friend “Why would a Jew want to attend a dance at a Methodist Church” as the woman asked me “Why would an atheist want to attend an interfaith group?”  It only takes one person to make someone feel uncomfortable.  I don’t think the woman meant any harm.  Sometimes I ask stupid questions and I hope people will forgive me.  The response I received from the leadership of OneJax (when I asked why they use the term interfaith) bothers me more than the woman’s original question.

When I sent OneJax an email trying to convince the board of OneJax to quit calling itself an interfaith organization, I received this as part of the response:

OneJax is interfaith in heritage and inclusive in practice.

What does Nancy and Kyle mean when they say “OneJax is interfaith in heritage and inclusive in practice”? I think they need a better response. The United States is racist in heritage.  Homosexuality was once punished by prison terms.  Women were once treated as chattel.  “Heritage” isn’t something to hang our hat on.  Heritage is what people are using to keep Confederate Monuments in the town square.   That wording might hit people wrong.  I think they need a better response.

The true heritage of One Jax is it started as part of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.   I don’t know why they moved away from being exclusively for Christians and Jews.  I posit that it is time for the board of One Jax to change from being an interfaith organization to a human relations organization as have other members of the National Federation for Just Communities. 

I found this wonderful quote in this article about Jonathan Zur who is the Vice Chair – Administration & Secretary of the National Federation for Just Communities:

Racism may be easy to spot in overt forms, but the subtle versions are the most troublesome. That’s the challenge for Jonathan Zur, president and chief executive of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, which promotes diversity. “It might be a statement or a gesture that the offended person doesn’t know if it was intentional,” Zur says.

You could substitute “religious bigotry” for the term “racism” and I think Zur’s point would still be valid.  I posit that discrimination against atheists is just as wrong as discrimination against minority religions.

I would have felt better if Nancy and Kyle had said
1. “One Jax is a group of people that believe in God.”
rather than
2. “OneJax is interfaith in heritage and inclusive in practice.”

What do they mean by “interfaith”? At least #1 would make it clear that I’m not part of their club. #2 is vague. It isn’t welcoming because I don’t know what they mean by “interfaith.”

OneJax calls itself an interfaith organization but it is a member organization of the National Federation for Just Communities.  I couldn’t find the words interfaith or faith on the NFJC website or in the Wikipedia description:
https://federationforjustcommunities.org/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Federation_for_Just_Communities

Perhaps the National Federation for Just Communities concluded that the word interfaith doesn’t fit within their goal of being inclusive?

I would think Humanist groups would want to be part of this “we”:

Who We Are
OneJax is a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote diversity as the foundation for a strong community. We work to increase respect and improve relationships among people who represent the rich menagerie of religious, ethnic, racial and cultural groups that compose our community.

Quotes from this article:

The labels we choose, therefore, carry more gravity, more hidden assumptions than what appears on the surface. … We are at a turning point in the “interfaith movement.” Focused non-profit organizations, contributing foundations and academic centers are well formed enough now that they are going to give shape to the movement and its public nomenclature going forward.

Is “faith” equally important in all religions? Are ethics or a sense of community or rituals more important to some?  Is the term interfaith outdated? I have this wild guess that the revelation of sexual abuse within religious institutions and the abuse of charismatic power within cults has turned people off to blind faith.  If religious institutions hope to grow, my wild guess is they should emphasize community and ethics and rituals that have been proven to help mental health rather than blind faith.

I posit that the word “faith” is a word that excludes people. I would think many Christians would agree and would celebrate that their faith does indeed make them different from people without faith.  I don’t think an organization should name itself with a word like faith if it also wants to describe itself as:

a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote diversity as the foundation for a strong community. We work to increase respect and improve relationships among people who represent the rich menagerie of religious, ethnic, racial and cultural groups that compose our community.

Visit to Jersey City and Manhattan

 


If you’re not in great shape, I suggest sitting down every hour or two.
You can sit in one of the many parks or a local cafe for a cup of tea or lunch or dinner.
The other thing I would suggest is to study the website of the museum you plan to visit and prioritize which floors and exhibits you want to see before you get there.

Here are some of the things we did in our week there.

Sunday
Arrive
Food shop at Shoprite
Visit the Liberty Harbor RV Park where Ken was staying
Walk to Breakfast at B18 Kitchen
Longingly look at the spa and make a mental note that I want to come back for a massage
Check-in to the AirBnB in Jersey City–great little studio apartment

Every morning we had coffee and granola in our little studio apartment before we headed out.  We did one major thing each day that we were there:

Monday: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Tuesday: Museum of Modern Art
Wednesday: bought the tickets via TKTS (the discounted place on the day of the show) Broadway-Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus at the Booth Theater
Thursday: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island–rode the ferry there
Friday: Guggenheim Museum
Saturday: Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium and
Dark Universe and fly home

Other things we did but not sure which days
Rode the ferry to New York City
New York Public Library
Irish Hunger Memorial Park in Battery Park City
Rode the subway many times–cured of my subway phobia
Walk in Greenwich Village
Bleeker Street
Minetta Tavern
Bought a scarf
Grove Street Farmer’s Market
Grove Street Bizzar
Razza for dinner in Jersey city(JC)
Luna for dinner (JC)
Porta for dinner (JC)
Sole for dinner (NYC)
Shubert Alley
Junior’s for lunch
Lunch in the 4th floor Dining Room at The Metropolitan Museum
Carriage Ride from 59th to the Guggenheim mostly thru Central Park
10 minute back and shoulder massage in Central Park
Listen to the street musicians in Central Park
Cafe Overlooking Central Park in the Guggenheim
Walk in Theater District
Walk 14th street
14th Street Pizza (Susan–no one else wanted a pizza)
Walk Across Central Park from 5th and 89th to 72nd and Broadway: Police Station, Reservoir, squirrels, bird watchers
Walk from 42nd and 7th thru Times Square to 72nd and Broadway: Wollman Rink, chess and Checkers, artists, Carousel, Dairy, gift shop, Bethesda Fountain, Bow Bridge, Imagine Mosaic, where John Lennon walked the mall, the Dakota, Ken’s former place,
911 Memorial

THINGS WE DIDN’T GET TO DO:
Strand Bookstore
Walk across Brooklyn Bridge
China Town
Canal Street
Battery Park
off-Broadway
High Line
Whitney Museum
Frick museum
American Indian Museum
Art Galleries
Wall Street
Macy’s
Cloisters
Jazz club
Walk spiral at Guggenheim
Eat at Gray’s Papaya
Walk inside St. Patricks Cathedral
Go inside 911 museum
See all of the American Museum of Natural History
So much more!!