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Duval School Officials Looking For Mayor’s Help Against Education Bill

Lindsey Kilbride

Duval County’s School Board Chair Paula Wright and interim Superintendent Patricia Willis are hoping Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry can help put a stop to a controversial education bill the governor is considering.

House bill 7069 is in Governor Rick Scott’s hands. While the nearly 300-page bill increases teacher bonuses, Duval’s traditional public schools wouldlose millions in capital dollars to the publicly funded but privately run charter schools. The bill would also give traditional public schools less time to improve their grades before having to close down. Charter school companies would be encouraged to open in those areas.

Proponents of the legislation say itgives hope to children stuck in failing schools, while critics say charter schools don’t guarantee a better education.

Wright said three low performing middle schools — Northwestern, Matthew Gilbert and Ribault — might close in the future if they don’t improve this year.

“I don’t think the mayor or the city understands the potential impact of the domino effect of closing three schools at the middle school level that feed into high schools,” Wright said. “We’re going to lose students going to high school, which puts those high schools at risk of then failing.”

She said she hopes Curry will use his relationship with Scott to urge a veto. Wright and Willis are planning to meet with the mayor.

“If the city begins to close a lot of its schools, that will not create jobs,” Wright said. “Companies will not want to come to a district where schools are closing.”

Wright said she’s also met with the Jax Chamber about the bill’s potential impact and is encouraging parents and partner organizations to contact Scott.  

Meanwhile, the governor is calling a special session this week for lawmakers to consider increasing student funding, but he hasn’t said whether he’ll approve the massive education bill.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.