by Julie Delegal | Jacksonville.com | April 21, 2018
The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has voted to approve ballot language for changes to Article IX of our constitution, relating to public, K-12 education.
Duval voters have good reasons to reject the proposal.
If enacted by 60 percent of the voters, the education ballot item will result in three distinct changes to Florida’s Constitution:
- Term limits for school board members statewide.
- A loss of local control for charter schools.
- The enshrinement of civics education into our Constitution.
It’s clear that the most controversial issue — the loss of local control of charter schools — was piggybacked on the much more popular ideas of term limits and civics education to increase its chances of passing.
Duval County voters should know civics education has already been elevated in Florida. Former Jacksonville state Rep. Charles McBurney led the passage of the Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Education Act in 2010. As a result, Florida’s civics literacy rate among middle-school students now nearly triples the national average. We achieved this without cluttering up the Florida Constitution.
Further, Duval County voters didn’t need a state constitutional amendment to institute term limits for our locally elected leaders. In 1992, Duval County voters approved a referendum in favor of term limits for school board members — the referendum was overturned and then reinstated by the Florida Supreme Court. Just as we wouldn’t want residents of other counties voting on our local school board matters, voters in other counties should decide for themselves the issue of school board term limits. This issue doesn’t belong on a statewide ballot, either.
The most controversial portion of the education ballot proposal is charter school supervision. According to the Times-Union, Duval’s success with charter schools is mixed. In fact, former Superintendent Nikolai Vitti asserted that the poor performance of charter schools brought down Duval County’s grade in the statewide grading system.
Fortunately, Duval’s School Board has had the power to shut down nine mismanaged or under-enrolled charter schools over the past decade. Our elected leaders have closed 27 percent of the county’s 33 charter schools. Taking supervision out of the hands of local elected officials — in favor of some yet-to-be-defined state bureaucracy — is the for-profit charter industry’s latest method of avoiding accountability.
This November, Jacksonville’s voters should reject the K-12 education ballot proposal.