From Robert B. Runcie Superintendent Broward County Public Schools
Arriving in Broward County in October 2011, almost nine months after the release of a grand jury report, my mission was clear – repair public trust while maintaining our commitment to give all children a high quality education experience. Today, we have a different School Board, new administrative leadership, and have made significant progress. Our community must move beyond the past and help us create a great future for our children.
Over the past two and a half years, the District has worked hard to show our commitment to spend taxpayer dollars responsibly. We have kept overhead expenses low and reduced the cost of senior-level administrative staff positions by 15 percent. This has resulted in Broward County Public Schools being ranked lowest in the State for administrative costs (less than 4 percent) among all of Florida’s 67 districts.
We have reinvested these cost savings – more than $35 million – in programs such as Digital-5, which is an innovative 21st century personalized learning platform that provides a one-to-one computer environment, with digital content and resources, to 3,200 fifth grade students in 27 schools. This year we have expanded this to include 69 elementary schools and also added sixth grade and ninth grade.
We have improved failing schools such as Sunland Park Elementary School and Dillard High School, where both recently received their first “A” rating in history. And we have been recognized as a national leader in “eliminating the school house to jail house pipeline” by changing our discipline practices and achieving a 60 percent reduction in student arrests, suspensions and expulsions for minor misdemeanor offenses.
We see the impact of investments as we strive to improve student outcomes and close achievement gaps. We are rated #1 in the State for achievement on Advanced Placement college level courses. Our students are better prepared for life as our college and career readiness rate improved by 4 percent in the past year. In fact, our 2014 high school graduates earned more than $125 million in scholarships and were accepted into more than 600 colleges, universities and technical schools.
Our students are doing well, despite the challenges we face in providing the proper infrastructure they need for a world-class education. Just imagine what more they will achieve if we make the right investments in our schools. The School Board of Broward County’s $800M General Obligation Bond Referendum on the November 4th ballot will give our children that opportunity.
The money will fix leaky roofs, replace old air-conditioning systems, make schools safer with security cameras and limited entry points, and provide better technology buy purchasing more computers and replacing old ones. Also, every school will get $100,000 for a capital improvement of its own choosing such as a new playground, more technology, or media center upgrade.
If approved by voters, the bond will add $50 a year to the tax bill of a $200,000 home with homestead protection (or $25 a year for a $100,000 home).
The money and projects are being prioritized to where there is the most urgent need. So, the oldest schools with the greatest amount of deferred maintenance, most of which are in the eastern part of the county, will receive the greatest investment. However, all District schools will benefit. Details on what each school and city is getting can be found at www.browardschools/smartfutures.
A Bond Oversight Committee will be established to provide independent public accountability and reporting to ensure that the bond projects are completed on time, on budget, and that the District honors its commitment to the community.
So how did we get here?
The State Legislature cut our capital tax rate and revenue by 25 percent – resulting in a $1.8 billion loss since 2008. That means Broward County families make a smaller investment in education today than we did 6 years ago.
The deep cuts to our capital funds should be a major concern for all of us. These dollars pay for technology, indoor air quality, school safety, music and athletic equipment, and renovations on more than 30 million square feet of school buildings. A strong education system attracts businesses. It stabilizes property values. It equals more jobs. And it fuels a better quality of life for each and every one of us.
The work generated by the bond will generate more than 8,800 jobs and provide $1.2 billion direct impact on our local economy.
Our students deserve better. Let’s give the students of Broward County Public Schools the opportunity to receive the best education in the world.
Now is the time for us to make smart investments in the children of Broward County.
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