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Paid political advertisement, paid for by Duval Citizens for Better Schools, PC,
Charles Wilson, Treasurer, 3121 Venture Place, Suite #1, Jacksonville, FL 32257
The national teacher shortage and an alarming increase in teacher resignations and retirements have created more than 400 unfilled teacher positions. Experienced, successful teachers earn salaries only slightly larger than first-year teachers. Because of this, many teachers are moving on to higher-paying, less stressful careers. The 1-mill increase is designed to retain experienced teachers, compensate other staff, such as security personnel and maintenance workers, and meet other operational needs, particularly in art, music, and athletics.
It is estimated to bring in about $82 million a year. It will sunset in four years unless renewed by voters.
It is estimated that the average increase in compensation could be more than $5,000 a year for experienced teachers.
The state has mandated a steady decline in the Required Local Millage rate, going from 5.346 in 2010 to 3.56 today, costing the district $657.6 million. Even if the 1-mill passes, the rate will still be lower than the 2010 level. The decrease in the millage rate hurts the district’s ability to keep up with increased costs and provide competitive compensation for teachers.
Those mainly were one-time stimulus funds to make up for student impacts and learning loss during the pandemic, and they aren’t nearly enough to increase compensation among 7,800 teachers.
In addition to paraprofessionals, support staff, some administrators, and charter schools, the district plans to use 12.5% of the funds to improve art, music, and athletic programs. There are no dedicated funding sources for art, music, and athletics. Musical instruments, stage lighting, audio equipment, athletic fields, and elementary school playgrounds need replacement, and no funding exists.
The state provided funding to increase the minimum starting teacher salary to $47,500. However, experienced teachers only received small raises and many of them found themselves making the same or slightly more than starting teachers, creating a great disparity. It is one of the reasons our experienced teachers are leaving the profession.
According to a National Education Association Survey in January of 2022, 50% of teachers plan to leave education sooner than expected and 96% said support for raising educator salaries is necessary to address burnout. Right now, there are 567,000 fewer educators in America’s public schools than two years ago. In a local stakeholder feedback questionnaire, respondents said higher pay for educators is a top priority.
Paraprofessionals (also known as teacher aides) are a critical source of support for students and teachers. The current rate of pay is $15 an hour. By comparison, customer service representatives, delivery drivers, cashiers, and warehouse workers make between $16 and $20 an hour.
Board members, the superintendent, and cabinet-level executive administrators are excluded from any compensation increases from this 1-mill referendum.
Just like housing and groceries, the costs to run schools are going up too. Just like businesses and corporations, we must pay higher salaries to offset the national shortage of teachers and staff. The teacher shortage was escalating prior to COVID-19 and then accelerated as more teachers left the profession during pandemic years. The corporate world is now strategically paying higher salaries to recruit educators to fill their vacancies. If we do not respond, our students will suffer. In addition, fewer college students are choosing education majors and teacher programs. Like any industry struggling to recruit workers, we must pay higher salaries to keep strong educators in schools and attract new teachers to the field. Existing dollars don’t cover those gaps.
After parents, the number one determinant of a student’s success is having an outstanding teacher. The percentage of teachers rated as “highly effective” increases as the years of experience goes up. Therefore, the loss of experienced teachers significantly impacts student success.
Duval County ranks 58th out of 69 districts and last among the seven large urban districts in years of teaching experience.
According to the Wall Street Journal, teachers have attractive skills for other professions, such as absorbing and transmitting information and communicating clearly. In addition, since the corporate world needs additional staff, they are actively recruiting teachers with bonuses and higher pay.
According to a state report, Duval is ranked 40th out of 69 school districts in Florida with an average teacher salary of $47,458 a year in 2020-21. Duval ranks last among the 7 large urban districts.
The incoming funds will be spent this way:
75% goes to teachers and other staff
12.5% goes to arts and athletics
12.5% goes to charter schools (as required by state law)
Yes, it would, but there are not enough dollars in operations to meet these needs. However, Florida law allows voters to make additional school funding available. Voters get to decide every four years whether to renew the funding.
The half-penny sales tax can only be used for facility repairs, renovations and the building of new schools. It cannot be used for operating dollars, which are mostly allocated for teacher salaries.
There’s never a good time. The decision is based upon critical needs. Plus, teachers are dealing with inflation just like everyone else. The district, like many industries, is facing staff shortages. We currently have almost 400 teacher vacancies. We cannot teach students without teachers.
Capital goes to facilities—brick and mortar—and physical facility improvements. Operations go to running the schools, mostly paying teachers, paraprofessionals and other school staff. Operational dollars also go to things like utilities, instructional materials, and equipment, such as musical instruments, playgrounds and athletic field enhancements.
Voters in 20 Florida school districts have approved similar millage increases, creating a competitive advantage for those communities and their students.
The new citizen’s Audit Advisory Committee will review the expenditures and report to the public annually. All of the district’s financial data and audits are fully available to the public on the DCPS Financial Transparency webpage. The district is subject to multiple audits each year. The budget and finance office has received certificates of achievement and certificates of excellence from the Government Finance Officers Association and Association of School Business Officials International, respectively, for 20 straight years, indicating good stewards of public funds.
Every charter school receives the same amount per student as traditional public schools.
The State of Florida only provides about 20% of the revenue needed to run public schools. Approximately 80% of school funding comes from local property taxes and other sources. If Duval County is going to stop teachers from leaving for better-paying districts and professions, it will be up to the community to provide the additional funding necessary.
No. All the money collected through the referendum will remain in Duval County for our schools. By law, the amount the district receives from the state cannot be reduced as a result of a voter-approved millage.
DUVAL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT
AD VALOREM MILLAGE ELECTION
Shall the Duval County School District levy an ad valorem operating millage of 1-mill annually to attract and retain high-quality teachers and staff through additional compensation, enhance art, music and athletic programs, and provide proportionate funding for charter schools, in order to continue and sustain improvements in the quality of Duval County’s school system.
___ YES, for additional millage
___ NO, against additional millage
One-mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value, less the homestead exemption. For example, a home with a value of $225,000 less the $25,000 homestead exemption will pay $200 more per year, or about $17 a month.
Public education impacts everyone. Resulting in higher incomes, better jobs, rising property values, and a healthy economy. Our homes represent the largest single investment most of us own. Any realtor will tell you that quality schools underwrite property values.
Today’s students are your doctors, nurses, engineers, and technicians of tomorrow. Our parents, grandparents, and neighbors paid for education for each of us. The quality of education our children receive will directly affect your quality of life.