50th No More rally supports education

The message heard by Historic City News reporters and scores of people driving by and walking in the Plaza yesterday was that good schools matter to everyone.

“Whether or not you have children in public schools, we all benefit from good public schools,” Colleen Wood told Historic City News Editor Michael Gold. “When schools are good, property values are higher and communities are better. People want to move to those states that value education.”

Wood leads the non-partisan, grassroots organization “50th No More” who believes that an investment in public education is an investment in the future of Florida’s economy.

“Florida’s public schools have a huge impact on your real estate property values, your crime rates, and sense of community pride,” Wood pointed out.

Wood told Historic City News that when the group formed in the summer of 2008, the US Census Bureau reported that Florida ranked an embarrassing 50th place in the country — in terms of spending on education.

Notwithstanding that, Governor Rick Scott wants to cut 8600 state jobs and cut school funding by two billion dollars. The governor is also pushing for more online classes in virtual schools.

While it’s just a proposal, St. Johns County Superintendant of Schools Joe Joyner is worried it will have long lasting consequences. “The currently proposed budget cuts that the governor represents will cut 275 teachers in St. Johns County. That’s more than eight teachers per school. It’s astounding.”

Everything is being looked at closely by school districts. Sports, electives and jobs are on the chopping block. Schools may even go to four day weeks. The Duval County school district is considering employee furloughs.

Wood says that Joyner is one of her “true heroes”. “Our elected officials in Tallahassee have made choices which have put us in this position,” Wood said. “Our children and our communities deserve better than 50th place.”

One of the biggest topics at the rally was the teacher “merit pay” bill that was passed in the Senate last week. The governor says he supports it, but districts say it puts a further strain on their budgets — because the state isn’t going to fund it.

St. Johns County is looking at a $17 million shortfall.

And everyone worries that no matter what happens, our kids will be the ones that lose out.

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