Monday, September 2

Why a Private School Parent in Jacksonville Supports the DCPS Sales Tax

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I went from being a public school teacher to a private school parent. I don't always love public schools, but I also don't think private schools are for everyone. However, the existence of strong public schools should be a goal for ALL parents, public and private. 

You can bury your head in the sand and your money in the pockets of the private schools, but Jacksonville needs a strong public school system for your private school to matter. It's tempting to just write the public schools off, invite friends and family to your private school, and figure the whole problem is solved. The problem is that Jacksonville still has a very large public school system, even if your kids aren't in it. That means your kids might have friends, neighbors, competitors, and even rivals who attend the local public schools. You should want those children to do well in school, and you should want them to be good human beings. Addressing facilities concerns is always part of running a school, and private schools have to rely on tuition and donations, while public schools have to rely on referendums. While there's a lot of bureaucracy in a large public school, there are also checks and balances, and the powers that be are not going to build something extraordinarily ridiculous just to spend more of your money. They will build and maintain school buildings. 

As a private school parent, you also want to kick the charter schools out of the equation, if at all possible. Charter schools are in the business of stealing. These schools steal the best public school students, but they also steal a fair share of private school students, taking some of your kids away. They operate without all the restrictions of public schools, yet receive public money. These schools are often run by groups from other countries who live in mansions and hire only family members. Or they are run by Americans who pad the pockets of local politicians for favors and drive swanky cars. Yes, they are also sometimes run by people who want kids to get a great education, but even those charter schools steal students away from your private school. These schools should not benefit disproportionately in a sales tax for Duval Public Schools. In fact, I'd argue they should not benefit at all, and you probably should, too. 

I assume that the goal for those in politics who want to stop any kind of DCPS sales tax (or make it as much about charter schools as public schools) are looking to kill the public school system in Jacksonville. The argument would be that a network of charter schools could provide the same services at a lower cost, with the added benefit of eliminating one of the largest unions in the state. If you're a private school parent, that probably seems enticing. However, a public school system is a stabilizing force in a city. I don't think most of us have the imaginations to even consider the ramifications of opening up Duval to nothing but charter schools. Every two-bit educational consultant in the country would flock in to get a piece of the action. There'd be winners and losers, with losers shuttering schools after years or maybe months. Yes, we can create a free market system for schools in the city, but it's scary to think about how that might look. And if it's really bad, like worse than DCPS now, then your kids and their accomplishments will look weak because there's no real competition. 

Whether Duval's public schools get smacked down by investment in charter schools or non-investment in facilities, a poor public school system will continue to send more and more families to St. Johns County. Sure, you can still live here and send your kids to the local private school, but the other families who just want a decent public school will leave Duval for another county, leaving you to live in neighborhoods with retirees, childless millennials, and others who may not share your values. 

Lastly, we need decent public schools in Duval because we might need to use them at some point. You might lose that hotshot job you now have. My own kids will graduate from the k-8 school they are at. You might even realize that there are some benefits to sending your kids into a good public school so that they can learn about people who aren't just like their parents. If you're stuck in Duval and the public schools are lacking, then your kids will be stuck in something you'd rather they not have. But that does not have to be the case. 

Private school parents pay just as much for Duval County Public Schools as public school parents and charter school parents. Usually more, based on property taxes. Even though my kids go to a private school, my say counts as much as those other parents, and I say that Duval County Public Schools needs to have facilities that are on-par with other large public schools in the state. I also say that charter schools do not deserve ANY of the money, but if they do get some, then I say private schools should be able to get some, too (why not?). I say that I want Duval's students to be able to compete with, challenge, and push my kids, whether they are currently at the same school, will be for high school, or even if they don't meet until college. Mostly, I say that Jacksonville only stays relevant as a city if it can make its public schools desirable to all those people moving to the Sunshine State.  

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