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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Why is the Jacksonville Public Education Fund having a hard time getting community endorsements? Guilt by association? (rough draft)

The JPEF is a local organization dedicated to the improvement of local education, a pretty laudable goal. To help facilitate this they have galvanized many of the city’s most influential citizens and held a series of one on one conversation with locals that culminated in a congress of sorts held earlier this month where they outlined what they believe the city’s education priorities should be. Superintendent Vitti and several school board members were there as well. They crafted a community agreement and have been working towards a goal of 2000 ratifications ever since. Mayor Brown among others even signed it.

One of their goals is a quality teacher in charge of every class and where that sounds great it plays into the narrative that our classrooms are staffed with substandard teachers just marking time until they can retire or collecting an easy pay check. I vehemently disagree with this notion, but okay lets move along.

So here we have this organization apparently supported by the superintendent, the mayor and a whole host of influential citizens, in a city of nearly a million people and some three weeks after they had their meeting attended by around 200 people they still haven’t reached their goal of 2000 signers. How is that? Do people in Jacksonville not care about education?

The answer to that is a partial yes, we do have too many absentee citizens that either can’t be bothered or who really don’t care and that’s a shame because the better our education system is, the better the city is and the better their lives will be but I think it is more than that too. I think there is some guilt by association, that turns people off, involved as well.

I have not signed the community agreement and have no plans to and it’s not because of their slight to teachers. It is because of their association with Gary Chartrand. Mr. Chartrand is the chair of the state board of education and one of the biggest foes to public education around. He went from top fifty in grocery store news to running our schools and is not swayed by evidence or facts and prefers instead to go with his gut. He doesn’t think teachers are professionals, he believes in race-based goals and is on record saying there is no evidence smaller classes work, when there is tons of evidence that says it does. Oh and he’s on the JPEF board as well.

Mr. Chartrand is not interested in improving our public schools, no he is interested in blowing our public school system up and I can’t help but think in this city of almost a million there are a lot of people like me who disagree and since he is associated with the JPEF struggle with supporting them and their goals as laudable as some might be.

To find out more about the JPEF, here is a link to their site.

1 comment:

  1. Chris -- Thanks so much for the comments. I wanted to make sure that you and your readers knew that we set the goal of obtaining 2,000 ratifications by March 1. We’re now nearly 1,500 ratifications in, and feeling very confident that we’ll blow past the goal over the next month.

    As to your other points, I would encourage your readers to check out the Community Agreement themselves at and decide for themselves if they can support its provisions. It represents the collective work of thousands of hours of citizen input and deliberation, and I think does a very good job of capturing the views of the community about what needs to improve in our public schools.

    For those that want more information, I’d encourage them to take a look at our most recent policy brief at It provides a thorough and comprehensive look at the process and feedback from the community. Another great way to learn more is to tune in Thursday night at 8 p.m., when WJCT will air “The Power of One,” a documentary about the ONE by ONE campaign and the students who inspired the effort.

    Finally, as to your concerns about our Board of Directors, I’d ask that members of our community take a look at the entire list at They are a tremendous group of 18 talented individuals, diverse in perspective, race and occupation, and provide immeasurable hours to ensuring that all students in Duval County have access to universally high-quality public schools. You could not ask for a group of more passionate advocates for public education.

    While I do not agree with your analysis of the campaign, I appreciate our past conversations and your passion. I look forward to a great many debates in the future and hope you reconsider supporting the Community Agreement, which has the potential to do so much good for our community. As always, if you or your readers ever have questions, I’m always available at