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Education

Jacksonville Rep. Fischer Calls for Duval School District Budget Audit

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Lindsey Kilbride
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WJCT News

State Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, is calling for a budget audit of Duval County Public Schools. He sent his request Monday to the state Legislative Auditing Committee Chair, Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne.

In his letter, Fischer said he’s most concerned about the school district’s spending more than $20 million over budget last year.

“I have major concerns that the $21 million in overspending will hurt our most vulnerable citizens, our children,” he wrote.

Fischer also calls the district's consideration of a lawsuit challenging a new state education law, which he co-sponsored, “frivolous.”

“I’m deeply concerned that the school district is taking their eye off the ball,” Fischer said in the letter.

Last week, the School Board talked about the possibility of suing, in part, because the law speeds up closures of low-performing schools and incentivizes charters to open up nearby, putting a handful of Duval schools in danger of closing.

Fischer noted in his letter, some members of the philanthropic community weren’t happy with the distrct’s budgeting. A group of local donors had sent a separate letter to Superintendent Patricia Willis saying some programs that work weren’t being prioritized.

“We cannot afford to allow the Duval County school district to continue to operate in this manner,” Fischer said.

School Board Chair Paula Wright said members last week agreed to an independent audit of the budget shortfall.  

“The financial health of our school district is paramount as it directly supports programs and services linked to the academic progress of our students,” Wright said.

She said the board is currently determining the next steps to conduct the independent audit.

Fischer served just under a full term on Duval’s school board, representing the Mandarin area. He left early to pursue his House seat.

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