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Education

6 Priorities: What Duval Schools Will Lobby For In Next Legislative Session

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Lindsey Kilbride
/
WJCT News
The Duval County School Board discussed its legislative priorities Thursday.

The Duval County Public School board decided on six priorities members want Northeast Florida lawmakers to fight for during the upcoming legislative session.

The board will now share the information with local lawmakers and the Florida School Boards Association.

1 | Required Local Effort

Board members are asking the state to stop rolling back a property tax rate called the Required Local Effort. Legislators have been adjusting the rate to one that generates a round dollar amount year to year for students.

Board chair Paula Wright says stagnant funding doesn’t support a growing district.

“For instance in 2007-2008, districts received $7,306 per-student,” Wright said. “For 2017-2018, we only received $7,296, that’s 10 years ago.”

An analysis from the advisory committee to the Education Commissioner shows lawmakers would need to increase per-student funding by $841 to offset the estimated impact of inflation over the last decade.

2 | Capital Outlay Funding

The board also wants the legislature to reverse a nearly decade-old 25 percent reduction in the cap on taxes that pay for technology and school building-and-maintenance projects.

The district can levy 1.50 mills, but used to be allowed to levy 2.00 mills.

Duval County, with some of the oldest buildings in the state, has a backlog of school building projects totaling $128 million. Board members fear the number will continue to balloon as a recently-passed education law they’re suing over requires distrct’s share that money with charter schools.

3 | General Funding

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Credit Duval County Public Schools
The state advisory committee analysis shows the average Florida teacher salary ranks 36th in the nation, although that doesn’t factor in cost of living.

The board also wants more general funding. Board members say that - paired with legislators not rolling back the Required Local Effort - could put districts in a better position to pay teachers more.

The state advisory committee analysis shows the average Florida teacher salary ranks 36th in the nation, although that doesn’t factor in cost of living.

However, board member Warren Jones pointed out the state should have nationally competitive salaries.

Florida’s $48,992 average salary trails the national average of $57,379  by $8,387 per teacher.

4 | Storm Shelter Compensation

The district wants earmarked money for converting schools into storm shelters, something charters aren’t required to do.

“That is to prepare for shelters, that is for repairs, that is to make certain that cots, food, etc. were provided for our citizens,” Wright said.

The district also has to staff the shelters and and pay for clean-up.

Eleven of the city’s 12 shelters during Hurricane Irma were in Duval’s schools.

Board member Becki Couch pointed out the city determines if a new school should be built up to hurricane shelter standards, and schools get no extra funding for it.

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Credit Duval County Public Schools
The Duval County School Board staffed Hurricane Irma shelters.

5 | Best and Brightest

Board members say they’d rather use so-called “Best and Brightest” funding to incentivize high-performing teachers to transfer to hard-to-staff schools.

Teachers are eligible for Best and Brightest scholarship dollars if they’ve personally received high SAT and ACT scores.

6 | Harder Testing

Duval is lobbying against a state Education Department proposal to raise the scores students would have to make on the SAT and ACT to replace failed Florida State Assessment reading scores.

Board members say it’s unlikely students who fail a 10th grade state test, would do better on a college-ready exam.

The department is also looking to do away with an alternative test to the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam, called the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test, or PERT, which the DOE has assessed to be too easy. They may vote to have the PSAT math score replace it instead.

Students must pass the FSA and Algebra 1 test to graduate. District staff say the two changes could together prevent about 1,000 students from graduating.  

The state DOE has not set a date to vote on the rule.

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