State Rep. Jason Fischer is getting a lot of heat for his bill to consider changes in how the School Board is constituted but it is not an idea he invented or necessarily even supports.
As I read it, Fischer simply is frustrated at how the board operates and thinks some change could improve the situation.
As a former member of the School Board, he has a little more insight than most folks.
The local bill he has filed with the Duval Legislative Delegation would call for the board to be appointed by the mayor instead of being elected.
The School Board in Duval County was appointed before consolidation.
After the uproar that was caused when the schools were disaccredited in the 1960s – a factor that helped bring about consolidation – it was changed to an elected School Board. Changing it back would require changing the city charter, which could be done by the legislature or by referendum.
If approved by the delegation in October, it could go to the Florida Legislature next spring and possibly become law in November 2020.
All other school boards in Florida are elected.
Fischer told Eye on Jacksonville that the idea didn’t originate with him. The Charter Revision Commission proposed it about 10 years ago but it never moved forward. The commission will meet again, later this year.
“The current system isn’t working,” Fischer said. Why not look at other options, he asked.
Fischer is opposed to an increase in the sales tax to build new schools. He says the county is spending more than $13,000 per child and should not need additional resources.
The sales tax proposal currently is an issue, with the board insistent upon a vote this fall and the mayor preferring to wait until November 2020.
Fischer said he wants to have a discussion. He is not wedded to the idea of the mayor appointing all members. It could be like the Jacksonville Port Authority, which has members appointed by the mayor and governor, he said.
Fischer said that the state constitution provision granting wide home rule powers to Jacksonville’s consolidated government has the effect of making the School Board less independent than those in other counties. The proposed change would make it more independent, not less, he said.