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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

An end to Friday night lights

I don’t get it; will somebody please explain it to me. Jacksonville’s schools, which mean Jacksonville’s children, are facing 62 million dollars in cuts, yet I don’t see any public outrage. There is no clamoring in the streets and no shouts that something must be done. All people seem to muster is a barely audible sigh and a shrug of their shoulders. Don’t people know how catastrophic a 62-million-dollar shortfall will be or is it they just don’t care.

The district will be expected to provide the same services it did this year with 62 million fewer dollars, and this as prices have risen, the legislature has burdened the district with one unfunded mandate after another and siphoned more money to charter schools. Could you do the same with considerably less money? Well the legislature, and by extension us through our inaction think it’s okay that our schools and our children do.

With the financial mess left behind by Superintendent Vitti, wouldn’t he have some explaining to do had he stayed and with the state allocating just an additional forty-seven cents per pupil, we are about to be in real trouble.

Let me describe to you what 62 million dollars in cuts is going to look like, and please don’t think I exaggerate for dramatic effect. Dozens if not hundreds of teachers and support staff will lose their jobs. Those that remain will have their workloads which are already daunting increased. Programs like art, music, physical education and other electives will most likely see huge cuts Class sizes may be expanded as field trips, extracurricular activities, most supplies, teacher training and after school programs are cut to the bone. These are some of the changes your children and the district are facing if nothing is done.

In effect education in Jacksonville will be done by fewer already over worked teachers, doing more with less, servicing more kids who will have fewer options. Is that the future you want for our schools and our children, don’t they deserve better?

Which brings me back to the part I don’t get, shouldn’t people specifically parents be outraged by the prospect of this? Why aren’t they in mass writing letters or calling their elected officials and demanding a special session that increases funding to our schools?

This isn’t eight years ago when we had a massive shortfall during the great recession. Times are good, and the state is flush with cash yet for some reason Tallahassee won’t properly fund our public schools? I ask you again, what is more important than our children; perhaps just one thing, football. 

If the residents of Jacksonville don't demand the republican members of the Duval delegation call for a special session to properly fund education then the district should cancel the 2018 football season.  
Every Friday night in the fall thousands of local children will suit up and play the game of football, they will be watched by tens of thousands of fans and coached by hundreds of teacher/coaches and these games all will cost the district money and when you include all the other sports, the costs are in the millions; millions of dollars that could be used to fund needed reading and after school programs, to save teachers jobs and a whole host of other things that will have to be cut if we stand idly by and nothing is done. 

I played sports while in high school and I believe they have been and can be very important to the development of many children. As for me they kept me off the streets and gave me a purpose, I felt like a member of my community when I played, and they taught me about things like discipline and team work. Furthermore I developed a work ethic by playing sports as I knew if I wanted to be successful I needed to work hard to do so, and I with all sincerity say cancel them all, cancel every single one of them if it saves one art teacher or one music teacher their job or if it allows a group of third graders to have PE. more than once a week.

I urge the superintendent and the school board to let the citizens and parents of Jacksonville know that before one teacher loses their job, before we assign one class to have more than forty students, or before we get rid of any art, music or physical education program we will get rid of all extracurricular sports including football. Hopefully that will motivate them to get involved and fight for proper education funding.

This would be an unpopular decision, but leaders often need the courage not to just do the popular thing but to do the right thing as well. Before jobs are lost and necessary academic programs are impacted, extracurricular activities should be cut, because even though they are important and do serve a function in the end they are extra, it’s right there in the word. 

Nobody wants to see this happen, but the school board, Jacksonville’s teachers and students need the parents and citizens of Jacksonville to understand there is a pending disaster on the horizon; that parents must get involved before we are forced to endure the impending financial crisis. We need them to let the legislature know it’s not all right that they continue to under-fund education. We likewise need parents to let the city council know we want them to pass similar measures to the ones that have been passed in south Florida and other places that invest in our children. We need parents to do it because neither the legislature nor the city council is listening to the people on the front lines and in the trenches of education and that’s the teachers.

The facts that Florida is routinely at the bottom when it comes to per pupil spending, when we factor in inflation we spend less than we did before the great recession and that we spend more on testing and mandated items than ever before meant we were heading for a disaster and with a looming 62 million dollar shortfall, I would say it is here.

The legislature expects schools to get by on an extra 47 cents per pupil which tells me they don’t care about our students, but I must believe the parents and citizens of Jacksonville do, they just don’t know how bad it will be. I must believe that because the thought that they do know but just don’t care is too terrible to contemplate.

It’s time the citizens of Jacksonville got it and realized how dire the situation is and realized that things are only going to get fixed if they stand up and demand that the powers that be, and start with the republican members of the Duval delegation all voted for the woeful funding, do something, that not funding our schools will no longer be tolerated.

If you want to contact the Duval delegation and demand they call for a special session to properly fund education, here is a link to find them:

1 comment:

  1. Many other countries in the world do not have organized sports in their schools. Sports for young people in other countries are managed by the city. We may need to take a hard look at cutting sports programs in public schools.