Education Policy Forum at JU Public Policy Institute

February 7, 2014

JU Public Policy Institute is continuing to engage and inform the community on major policy issues facing our region. This Tuesday, Feb. 11, the Institute is hosting Nikolai Vitti, Ed.d, Superintendent, Duval County Public Schools and Gary Chartrand, Chair, Florida State Board of Education.

Courtesy Florida Memory

Education itself has been an inexplicably thorny issue in Duval County since the very first days of Consolidation as the city has struggled to balance the needs of the ignorant to enforce ideological policy with the needs of the students and families who actually utilize the Public Schools of Jacksonville and Duval County.

For example, had it not been for widespread efforts of the part of the good old boy racist system to de-fund 'black' schools and transfer the money to 'white' schools in the fifties and sixties, the city would likely have never faced the humiliation of having our schools disaccredited and subject to federal busing.

By the time that disaccreditation happened, for twenty years the champions of racist political ideology had been at the helm of our school boards and city --- and much of the process of making decisions.  It seems inexplicable that this vitally important public infrastructure was actually guided by an attempt to segregate the races and transfer the bulk of the tax resources to schools in 'white' districts.

What exactly, one might ask, does race based ideology have to do with education?  

Where was the concern for educating all of the students of this city?  Its hard to explain, especially in light of todays incrementally more enlightened society, and yet here is the sad truth.  

The school boards prior to Consolidation did not care about this simple, vital commission.  They were more identified with politics than education. Racist political ideology  was all pervasive by the 1960s.  And the Schools were the front lines in a geographical battleground that pit race based districts and areas against one another.

Haydon Burns being sworn in as mayor of Jacksonville in 1949. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Like other cities across the old South, even our mayor, Haydon Burns weighed in to support segregation: In restaurants, bathrooms, at water fountains, and most importantly in the schools. The result of putting politics above Education was catastrophic, and the city is still informed and guided by the fallout of that catastrophe.

In 1964 the days of Disaccreditation came and Duval County schools all lost their certification that children educated in Duval had been educated at all. For a few years, graduates of Duval County were forced to face college admissions boards without a diploma from a recognized school system.It triggered a massive exodus of children from families who could afford private school---for no other reason than the simple aspiration to be able to send one's children to college. That pullout established a pattern amongst the middle class to upper middle class families that continues to this day. (More on this later on in the essay.)

Disaccreditation happened in 1964, and the school system wasn't fully accredited again until 1979. Fifteen years.

Further, the Federal mandate to desegregate the schools was ignored and skirted so blatantly that mandatory busing of students began in 1971.  It continued until 1999 (source) with the dismissal of the 39 year old federal lawsuit against the school system.

Interesting, one might think, but what does this have to do with anything current.

Well there are three important things that directly bear on our current situation.  

1.  The direct harm that political ideology does to the educational process.
2.  The three generation disengagement from the public school system of many of Jacksonville's middle and upper middle class families.
3.  The Magnet School Programs.

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