Who’s Financing Duval County’s Top-Funded School Board Candidates?
The last day for Duval County School Board candidates to qualify for the ballot is Friday.
With four seats up for grabs, three candidates have raised substantially more money than the 11 others.
In order to appear onthe ballot, candidates must raise about $1,700 or get around 800 petition signatures. That number varies slightly for each district.
Current board chairwoman and District 3 incumbent Ashley Smith Juarez is running unopposed and has raised $32,688, the most of any candidate.
Smith Juarez has received many small donations, with nearly 80 percent in amounts of $100 or less. She also has $1,000 each from the Jacksonville Kennel Club and a landscaping business, and $500 from District 4 congressional candidate Hanz Tanzler III.
District 1 incumbent Cheryl Grymes is also running unopposed. She’s raised about $18,200, with many contributions from companies that manage and develop charter schools. Miami-based S.M.A.R.T Management and School Development H.C. Finance and Fort Lauderdale-based Charter Schools USA each gave Grymes $1,000.
Duval County has 35 charters, which are controversial because they take district dollars but are privately run. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has said charter schools bring the district down by earning lower school grades. In February, he presented data to the board celebrating lower charter enrollment.
The third-largest fundraiser is Greg Tison, at $17,726. He’s running for District 7 along with six others to replace Jason Fischer, who’s running for state House.
Tison received $1,000 donations each from W.W. Gay, the Jacksonville Kennel Club and State Board of Education member Gary Chartrand, who sat on boards for Teach for America and Jacksonville's KIPP Charter schools. Chartrand also gave a $1,000 to Grymes.
All campaign contributions are listed on the Duval elections website.
Editor's note: Gary Chartrand is the chair of the WJCT Foundation.