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.

Image Courtesy of Florida Memory

The three generation disengagement from the public school system of many of Jacksonville's middle and upper middle class families.

Starting with disaccreditation, the flight of families from the public school system has been alarming. The statistics actually are pretty shocking and reflect a epidemic sized disengagement from the Public School system.  Only 25% of households in Duval County have a direct enrollment connection to the public schools.

Considering the fact that one hundred percent of us pay property taxes to the school board, the level of apathy on this issue is breathtaking, but consider this.  Duval County has a couple of odd metrics for a city of our demographic profile.  

1,  Despite being the country's, thirteenth largest city in terms of population, we only have the 21st largest public school enrollment.  

2.  We rank 27th in studies relating to child well being ( source ).  

3.  We also have a higher proportion of lower income family enrollment compared to higher income family enrollment than any comparable school system in the country.

This reflects some pretty nasty negative realities, all of which reflect a lack of confidence in our public school system on the part of families that value education enough to pay for it.  Without the presence of that percentage of education driven students in the student populations, there are fewer peer resources and behavioral modifiers.

It also means that the bake sale motivated parents are fewer when it comes down to the old Education by Bake Sale method.

Theoretically this should work out better per student right?  After all, those families which choose to privately educate or self educate their children still have to pay taxes, right?  And now those taxes can be spent on fewer children, right?  Well not really.  Florida has led the way to divert all of that money into private and christian schools.  

Furthermore this exodus from public schools-directly as a result of using the schools as a battlefront for political ideology (segregationist philosophy at the time)-has gone on for three generations as a result of a feedback process.  We keep 'up segregating', to coin a phrase.  The best and brightest students from the most education driven families are increasingly segregated from the general school population.

Families that can afford to privately educate their children feel forced to do so because of poor school performance, lack of facilities, and discipline. Of the remaining students, in order to overcome the 39 year Federal Desegregation Order, they are increasingly being placed in magnet schools based on their own performance abilities.

Magnet Schools

One of the main structural components of the Duval County School System is its Magnet School Program.

Perhaps it is the longest lasting legacy of the days of racist control of our school boards during the Porkchop Gang era inasmuch as it was developed as the solution to the Federal Desegregation Order of 1971.

The federal lawsuit found that despite the order to desegregate the schools, only about 150 actual students had actually crossed the color lines to go to a school of a 'different color'.  Every single case was an african american child who had enrolled in a 'white' school.  There were literally no cases of a european american child enrolling in a 'black' school.

The feds ordered mandatory busing, and whole neighborhoods of schools were bused every day to much further away schools to desegregate the populations.Socially, this process proved to be a success in the long term, and the improvement in racial relations in the modern era owes a lot to the days of desegregation. Educationally, it was chimerical at the time, as it raised racial tensions, was profoundly more expensive in terms of more transportation, and forced the majority of the city to actually ponder the appalling physical conditions of the 'black' schools.

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