Monday, May 6

Maybe it's Time to Unconsolidate

Duval County tried consolidation as a way to equalize education, but the broader results haven't been positive. Right now, when DCPS is short on funds, would be a perfect time to look into unconsolidation. 

The plan was for all children to have equal opportunities at all schools, but it's silly to think anyone wants to send their kids from one end of Duval County to the other. I have to admit that I thought a similar fix might work for Milwaukee Public Schools at one point, where in-county suburbs like Glendale, Wauwatosa, and Franklin have excellent schools. But it didn't work in Jacksonville, ending permanently with a Supreme Court decision that forced integration couldn't happen because of the insane amount of time and money spent on busing. So now we're left with one of the largest school districts in the country covering by far the largest area, and it's competing with total school choice, while being forced to consolidate buildings in order to survive. However, at least two new school districts could be formed that could survive the apocalypse, as long as they are released from DCPS, leaving Duval Schools to figure it out with a much smaller footprint. And also keeping the families we want in Duval rather than forcing them to move to St. Johns County.

The way I see it, you've got nothing but typical big-city school issues anywhere west or north of the St. Johns River, so I'd keep that all DCPS. I know, it's not fair. Whatever, that district could have the most federal money and human resources to work with. Stanton could still be there as a beacon to people who want to do that Stanton thing. 

The second district would be Mandarin up to San Marco, or everything between the river and E295. I would delete Terry Parker because nobody wants to go to Terry Parker. 

The third district would be anything east of E295, so basically the Atlantic Coast, Sandalwood, and Fletcher areas. It would get the least amount of state aid and may need to rework how money is spent, but it's also the area where a lot of people who could easily move to St. Johns County have decided to make their homes. Actually, the same could be said for the Mandarin to San Marco areas. 

The point is that before consolidation, the suburban districts would have been successful on their own. The point of consolidation was to bring the lower-performing schools up to the level of the other schools in the county. However, it was never allowed to fully happen because of the logistics, and now the large district is dragging those annexed suburban areas down so far that the district as a whole is in real trouble. 

Personally, I would vote for a property tax increase if it was for the three high schools in my own area, but I think I'm done voting for DCPS referendums that lead to delayed construction projects, closed schools, teacher lay-offs, and generally missing money. 

Years ago, Jacksonville tried something new and progressive in order to equalize education for all students. Now, it might have to loosen its grip in order to save public education in the city. 

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