In Jacksonville referendum push, it’s the Civic Council and Richard Corcoran against the School Board
Charter player Gary Chartrand has doubts about Duval's proposed school construction plan and referendum.

"... Several areas in which the plan falls short."

Duval County Public Schools is considering pushing back its sales tax referendum ask to the November 2020 ballot, but one prominent Jacksonville civic group isn’t sold that they need it at all.

On Tuesday, the school board mulled draft agreement to push back the requested referendum to 2020, changing. Ultimately, the board could reach no consensus, meaning they will for now hold to their original ask for a November 2019 referendum.

Meanwhile, the influential and moneyed Jacksonville Civic Council released a letter to DCPS saying they had doubts that the public school model was even a long-term bet.

The Jacksonville Civic Council, according to a letter weeks ago signed by former Florida Board of Education chairman Gary Chartrand, a charter school pioneer, thinks that the case for a popular vote on a new half-cent sales tax hasn’t been made.

The JCC education task force “has identified several areas in which the plan falls short.”

“1) it is excessively expensive; 2) it fails to anticipate reductions in district-operated public school enrollment; and 3) it does not adequately contemplate the increase in charter school enrollment or the role that charter schools will play in creating the highly effective school system of the future.”

Duval County Schools have fewer students today than 50 years ago when the city and county were consolidated.

“In the last four years, district-operated schools have lost an average of 1,000 students per year (117,700 to 113,600), while charters have gained 1,400 students per year (11,000 to 16,600). As a result, the share of Duval students attending charter schools has increased from 8.5 percent to 12.7 percent,” the letter asserts.

The JCC letter asserts that current plans allocate upward of $30,000 per student for construction costs, at least double what charter schools can do the same work for.

“At a minimum, 30 percent of the projected $1.95B of spending, or $600 million, could be saved through a more efficient, economical spending plan that fully leverages newly available state construction flexibility. Moreover, should DCPS choose to incorporate Schools of Hope (charters catered to students from underperforming local schools) into the plan, the district will unlock additional funds from state, nonprofit and philanthropic sources at no additional cost to Duval County taxpayers,” the letter promises.

This read was supported Wednesday by a memo from Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran (SP Memo- School District Construction Flexibility), which offered leeway in standards for public school construction.

By a simple majority vote, they can waive requirements, including wood studs in walls, paved walkways, driveways, or parking lots.

Covered walkways? Also optional. As is site lighting and anything else that a traditional public school may have that a charter does not.

Corcoran’s letter is seen by the Civic Council as safeguarding its position.

Worth noting: Corcoran has already expressed dismay over Duval schools. Per the Tampa Bay Times, Corcoran told Superintendent Diana Greene that Duval’s lowest performing schools were a “travesty of justice.”

“I want you to find a parent in this state and go up to them and say, ‘Is it all right if we put your child in school and fail them for three years in a row?’ They’ll go, ‘No.’ How about two years in a row? No. How about one year? No. They won’t accept it for one single year,” Corcoran said after the meeting. “But these kids. … They’ve had 15 straight years at one school. It’s just completely and utterly unacceptable.”

Commissioner Corcoran, like the Civic Council’s Chartrand, are invested in the charter model. Which leads the School Board into a seeming no win position: Buy into the charterification of the district, or attempt to run a referendum against Chartrand and the rest of the Jacksonville donor class.

As seen recently in Los Angeles, a school referendum is a tough sell when the local business class isn’t sold.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been cool on the idea of a special election in 2019, citing costs for such a one-off.

Will a 2020 compromise change the calculus? Time will tell.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Frankie M.

    June 4, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    What Chartrand knows about public schools he could fit on the back of a postage stamp with a magic marker. Where did his kids go? I’m guessing Bolles. At least we know who’s pulling Lenny’s strings. The fact that he’s trying to sabotage this referendum before it gets off the ground isn’t surprising. It’s expected. What is surprising is that LC is Cardi B’s biggest fan.


    June 5, 2019 at 8:36 pm

    Asshole aka Shart-rand is holding public schools hostage in favor of strip mall charter schools. Who wins in all this? Spoiler alert: it’s not the kids. It’s rich old white men like Shart-rand who use strip mall charter schools like ATMs.

    Meanwhile those kids that don’t make the grade at Jo Blow charter school will be sent packing back to their aging neighborhood public school right before the FSA’s. And they won’t count against the Jo Blow charter school’s grades. It’ll be the 100 year old public school with the broken AC & leaking roofs that takes the cap hit.

    Corcoran got up on his soapbox & accused Greene of being scared of competition. The only thing she’s worried about is Corcoran & his cronies stacking the decks against public schools. Level the playing field & see what happens. Of course that won’t happen because we already know what will happen. More charter schools in affluent areas like Mandarin & the beaches that already have A schools. Meanwhile the ones North & West of the river are doing no better or worse than their public school counterparts. It ain’t rocket science.

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