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Tough Budget Decisions Ahead: Duval School Board, Superintendent Face Uncertainty Over State Funding

Lindsey Kilbride
Duval Interim Superintendent Patricia Willis made recommendations at her first budget workshop Monday.

Duval Schools could invest more in professional development for teachers while putting less money into the district’s emergency fund. These are among the possibilities, as Florida public schools face uncertainty over how much state funding they’ll have for the next school year.

Duval Interim Superintendent Patricia Willis said, at her first budget workshop Monday, she wants to focus on improving literacy, and teacher retention and training. She’s calling for a larger, revamped professional-development program, with a $1 million price tag.

“This is not to say that professional development has not been happening, but how can we more effectively have that happen,” she said. “(Professional development) translates into improving instruction in the classroom and then improving student achievement.”

Willis also said the district could reduce its emergency reserves. The state requires school districts set aside at least 3 percent of their general funds. Reducing the amount set aside by one percentage point would free up close to $10 million, but Willis said “not knowing what the next year will bring” makes this a hard decision.

Board members were split on whether they were comfortable with making the cut. The district is facing uncertainty, as an education bill in the governor’s hands could close failing schools while diverting millions of dollars for capital funding from traditional public schools to charter schools. At the same time, state lawmakers are considering a $100 per student funding increase in special session, which would be an estimated $16 million more for Duval.  

If that’s approved, Willis said, almost half could be used to hire more teachers and create smaller classes. She’s also recommending continuing Teach for America and other programs until their current contracts run out this year.

With so much up in the air, the board decided Monday tofurther defer voting on building a new auditorium at Fort Caroline Performing Arts Middle School.

They’ll meet again June 13.

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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.