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Monday, June 28, 2010

A lack of leadership

It’s no secret that Duval County schools are in the midst of a budget crisis. To help alleviate this last year they enacted a quarter mill property tax which basically amounts to 35 dollars on a hundred and forty thousand dollar home. They are considering whether to maintain this for a second year and if they should put it on the ballot so the tax payers can decide if they are willing to pay it in the 11-12and 12-13 school years.

Before I continue let me say that I fully get it, nobody likes taxes and in this economy the vast majority of us including me are already feeling the pinch. I will likewise say where I know there are needs not being met in Jacksonville's schools I also think waste is occurring. With that being said I think extending the millage rate is a no-brainer.

W.C. Gentry on the other hand isn’t so sure. He said he would only support the extension if the district first makes some hard decisions where to cut expenses. When I read this I did a double take. Mister Gentry is part of the school board that in recent months looked into hiring a public relations person and put aside fifty thousand dollars to obtain private representation to fight the charter review commission's suggestion we switch to an appointed school board. Furthermore the school board increased the travel budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars, authorised a study of the districts practices for a half million, settled with Aramak services for a similar amount and authorized tens of millions of dollars in new construction. Is Mr. Gentry suddenly concerned with finances? Does he not know that the federal stimulus is the only thing that propped us up last year and is saving us from a financial disaster this coming one. Finally the superintendent himself said we probably wouldn’t be able to fully implement the class size amendment, are we just refusing to do so, or is a lack of money involved?

Every time somebody from 1700 Prudential Drive opens there mouth it shows the city once again what the number one problem affecting our schools is and that’s leadership as in the district is sorely lacking it. Leadership that does the right thing even if it is hard like holding kids back who don’t have the ability to be successful at the next level or disciplining children for bad behavior. Leadership that does the right thing even if it’s unpopular like asking for more money through taxes.

Next year unless the stimulus is extended or the Florida legislature develops a conscious, Duval County Public Schools will automatically be down 43 million dollars. Mr. Gentry may feel comfortable adding another sixteen million to that but I am not and neither should you even if it costs you around thirty five bucks.

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