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Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry

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Lenny Curry signs off on school tax plan he blocked in 2019

Charter schools will get their cut.

The recent Era of Good Feeling continued Thursday in Jacksonville’s City Hall, where the Mayor signed off on a push for a new tax.

Duval County voters in November will vote on a half-cent sales surtax to pay for a bonded out list of school improvements.

The measure was approved by a resounding 18-1 margin on Tuesday, even as some City Council members questioned whether voters would go for it.

The main roadblock, a lack of charter funding in the proposal, was removed by the state tax package that allows for per-pupil proceed sharing between charters and traditional schools.

The legislation puts to rest a legal dispute between the school board and the city government, with Mayor Lenny Curry enthusiastically backing the plan with the charter carveout.

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Curry, on a Zoom conference with School Superintendent Diana Greene and Councilmen backing the bill, enthused about the opportunity to improve schools.

Curry lauded the teamwork on “this important effort,” vowing to “fully support the referendum in the fall.”

Laudatory quotes followed.

Superintendent Greene said “the referendum’s about schools and students, but it’s about much more,” including “the economy and getting people back to work.”

Greene envisions capital projects as a jobs program for out-of-work locals.

School Board Chair Warren Jones lauded the “bold plan,” noting that the “passage of this” will allow improvement of “not only the economy, but the academic success of all the students.”

Councilman Matt Carlucci lauded Curry’s “strong leadership,” and said that his signing of the bill was a “historic day” for Jacksonville.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri enthused that “this is huge for our kids and our K-12 education system at every level.”

Councilwoman Brenda Priestly-Jackson celebrated the “collaboration” between all parties to get this measure to the voters.

While there has been no post-coronavirus polling about the prospective tax, surveys before the current crisis reflected conceptual support.

A poll last year from the University of North Florida found the majority of registered Duval County voters (74%) backed a half-cent sales tax for school capital improvements, without a charter carveout.

However, given the uncertain economy ahead, it remains to be seen if people will be so generous when at the ballot box in November.

To make the sale, the Duval Citizens for Better Schools political committee has been established.

While fundraising has been dormant, that likely will change on the April report.

Written By

A.G. 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 AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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