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Jason Fischer filed a bill to elect, eventually, Duval's school superintendent.

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House panel to mull elected school superintendent for Duval County

A 2020 referendum is being considered

Change may be coming, eventually, in how Duval County chooses a School Superintendent.

A bill from State Rep. Jason Fischer that would create a pathway to make the (currently appointed) position elected gets its first hearing in a House committee Wednesday morning.

If the local bill (HB 1079) passes, Duval voters in November 2020 would be able to vote on whether they want an elected Superintendent, setting up a potential 2022 election to select a replacement for a position appointed for decades.

Fischer got the support of the Duval legislative delegation in a 6-2 vote last year. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also supports the measure, which does have some opposition.

The Duval County School Board voted in unanimous opposition to the proposal. The Jacksonville City Council declined to pass a resolution opposing Fischer’s bill, deadlocking on the vote.

That lack of support has not been particularly meaningful in the process so far.

Mayor Curry thinks that a bill authorizing an elected School Superintendent could be on the November 2020 ballot along with a school capital sales surtax referendum proposal.

The Duval County School Board wanted that referendum this year, but the City Council would not authorize it. That matter is in the courts, but the time frame for a tax referendum that does not coincide with a general election has lapsed.

Legislation passed in 2019 requires that school sales tax referendums be put on a general election ballot.

Though other counties have moved forward with referendums without incident, that was not the case in Duval.

Charter advocates, both inside and outside Jacksonville’s City Hall, wanted carveouts for that sector and are not satisfied with the proposed allocation of sales surtax funds.

The concept has been discussed generally with Speaker José Oliva, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, and Gov. Ron DeSantis, as part of an ongoing conversation about education reform, Fischer said last year.

He offered a message for his critics that sounded like something Mayor Curry might have said in a different time.

“You can kind of chirp on the sidelines,” he said, “or get in the game over here.”

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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