Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis said it best near the end of the lengthy meeting - three hours later, they still seem to be in the same spot.
On Wednesday, DCPS Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene once again faced the city council and laid out a master plan that calls for a half-cent tax, and why each decision was made. The council then came back with questions to clear up concerns.
One big question concerned charter schools, namely, why they don't get more money in this plan. Dr. Greene said the plan is based on need and 90 percent of the charter schools are younger than the youngest traditional public schools. So, infrastructure wise, the charter school don't need it. However, in this plan, all schools including charters would receive $5 per square foot to go toward safety and security upgrades.
Another point of contention is why the plan can't be based on per-student funding as opposed to need.
Dr. Greene explained, if an older school and a new school has the same number of students and gets the same amount of money, the older school would not be able to do as much as that newer school, leading to further inequity. Some schools in the district were built over 50 years ago, while others were built less than 10 years ago.
City Council President Scott Wilson said he feels parents should know beforehand if their school would be consolidated, and there would need to be more community conversations before a vote. Dr. Greene said she can’t do public meetings on consolidation moves that she doesn’t have the funds to do. Without the funds, nothing is going to happen. She did agree meetings would need to be held after the funds were secured by the half-cent tax to let parents know how they would be impacted.
In the end, there was no decision made. DCPS board member Cheryl Grimes said she believes the council has overstepped their bounds. She says she does not believe it’s their job to tell the school board how to do their work. She would prefer the council gives them their charge to do what they need to do.
At the same time, this has to do with taxes and the council members who are on the fence say they want to make sure if they’re going to do this, it's done right and in a way the public agrees with. Some, like councilwoman LeAnna Cumber, still want a detailed list breaking down when each school would be done.
There were several assertions by a number of council members that it’s time for them to stop talking and get to voting - ideally by their meeting next Tuesday. Councilman Reggie Gaffney said they won’t get anything done at the pace their moving.
Near the end of the meeting, Councilman Rory Diamond handed out a draft resolution for the council's consideration, that included changing the school board's plan to be based on a per-student calculation vs. a need-based calculation. That will be discussed at the council's next meeting.