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Jason Fischer wants an elected Duval Schools superintendent.

Jax

Duval legislative delegation gears up for potential school superintendent changes

Tallahassee looks likely to debate electing a school superintendent in Duval next Session.

Will Duval County elect its School Superintendent going forward? The first test for that proposal will come in a few weeks.

The Duval County Legislative Delegation will meet Nov. 1 and will weigh the merits of a local bill that would change the governance structure of the school district.

The meeting date was finalized after a Jacksonville City Council committee rejected changes by a 5-2 margin, and after the School Board voter to oppose the proposed changes.

The scheduling announcement may be seen as a signal that whether the Council or School Board wants this or not, it’s moving through.

Local Bill J-1 was drafted in August by state Rep. Jason Fischer, a former School Board member.

Fischer is an ally of Mayor Lenny Curry, and Curry wants an elected Superintendent — currently an appointed position.

Fischer’s bill aligns with that position, asserting there is “no better way to strengthen voters’ voices and control over their local school system than to elect the Superintendent.”

Fischer’s bill calls for a 2020 referendum, and if voters approve, the position would be elected starting in 2022.

FP reached out to Duval Delegation members for their takes last month and found that Fischer likely won’t have a problem getting a second for his motion.

Rep. Wyman Duggan, a Republican likewise aligned with Curry, supports the measure.

“If the voters don’t want it, they will tell us,” Duggan says.

Sen. Aaron Bean also backs the move.

“If it passes,” Bean said, “Jacksonville voters will have the final say.”

Not all legislators would talk. And not all of those who would talk were on record.

One who was, however: Rep. Tracie Davis, who staunchly opposes the bill.

Davis, a second-term Democrat, says the push is about “control and money,” and notes that this coincides with the first female African-American superintendent in history.

She noted that schools were disaccredited during the last period of elected superintendents.

Expect Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson to align with Davis, leaving a 2-2 split, with speculation from there.

In the balance: Reps. Clay YarboroughCord Byrd, and Kim Daniels.

Yarborough and Byrd, while Republicans, are not historically yoked to the Curry political machine. Byrd often aligns with Sen. Bean, however.

Daniels, while a Democrat, is known to play ball with the GOP power structure in Jacksonville and Tallahassee.

This may come down to a test of Davis and Gibson’s ability to swing the rest of the Delegation its way. That may be difficult, however, on this issue.

In the meantime, the city’s once-every-decade Charter Revision Commission weighed arguments last month.

Rep. Fischer, in extended remarks to the commission, said “constituents wanted more input,” with some suggesting “elected principals.”

While that’s a “bridge too far” for the Legislator, the elected Superintendent proposal is not. Fischer said his proposal had “incredibly striking” support.

“Constituents from my area definitely want an elected Superintendent,” he noted, adding that Clay County and 41 other counties in the state had such.

Fischer’s take: that Superintendent is by necessity a “political position.”

Current appointed Superintendent Diana Greene made the case for the status quo to the CRC, noting that Duval already is among the top urban school districts in the city in a variety of standardized testing measures.

However, she will not be able to make that case if, as expected, this local bill hits the floor next year in Tallahassee.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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