A familiar face is heading up a new grass roots effort to save Duval County Schools from severe budget cuts by the Florida Legislature. Deborah Gianoulis, a former Channel 4 news anchor, is heading up Save Duval Schools.
“Save Duval Schools is our intent to draw a line in the Florida sand,” said Deborah Gianoulis, a former news anchor at WJXT. “We will not accept any further erosion of Florida public school funding.”
Parents and administrators are forming a grassroots initiative hoping to put more pressure on lawmakers currently trying to balance the state’s budget despite a multibillion-dollar drop in state revenue.
“I think this is the only way that we can reach Tallahassee and rise above the voices of lobbyists,” Gianoulis said.
Florida’s school system regularly finishes last in rankings of state spending on public education. After six budget cuts over the past two years, the Florida Legislature is considering cuts of another $150 million in funding of Duval County schools, and corresponding reductions in other counties across the state.
“When the community at large says this is a crisis and we have to all get behind this, even if we don’t have kids in public schools, that’s significant and important,” Gianoulis said.
Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals and members of the Duval County School Board were among those who turned out Wednesday morning to kick off the effort.
Save Duval Schools also seeks to change how the dwindling tax dollars are spent. They want the system not to reward schools with the highest scores on the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test with the most funding.
“The FCAT reward system is deeply flawed because the children that need the most help get punished,” Gianoulis said.
And what about the money from the Florida Lottery that funds education? In 1991, Duval schools received $32 million unrestricted lottery dollars. This year, the district received $8 million, and only $3 million of that can be used at their discretion.
Gianoulis said an entire generation’s future is at stake.
“There’s a lot at stake: graduation rates, teachers’ jobs, class hours, electives, resources and even more,” Gianoulis said.
Update: Ron Littlepage’s column on Save Duval Schools.