Are Children trapped in Jacksonville?
As the Distinctive Schools network begins to explore providing its school model outside of Illinois, we are studying the potential a couple of cities. Jacksonville, FL is one of those cities.
To be fair, there are terrific assets Jacksonville offers its education system. These include a progressive teachers union that does incorporate betterment of students in its work, an incredible Chamber of Commerce, philanthropy, and civic community, all of which were helpful to the reform efforts I led while serving as superintendent of the Duval system.
The negatives continue to outweigh the positives. Here are some of the problems:
1. a school board and political system that favors good-ole-boys and good-ole-girls, re-election, and power mongering at the expense of what is best for school kids and families
2. a city council that wallowed in the hatred of certain factions (fundamentalists and bigots) and failed to pass a progressive change to the city’s discrimination laws
3. a school system that cannot stand up for what is right, especially for its poor and underserved kids and families–mostly due to a governance structure that does not allow the school system to change and excel
4. an inability to get progressive, smart, and creative folks elected or appointed to posts to help the city move forward
These and other impediments create a trap for children and families in Jacksonville that perplexes at best and creates continued cycles of poverty, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and a depressed culture at worst.
While the other cities we are exploring offer charter operators much more in the way of resources and policy, I wonder whether we would be answering a calling by going for some Jacksonville schools. Not sure.