Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and education leaders sat on a panel at TPC Sawgrass on Tuesday to discuss the state of public education in Duval County.

"The fact that you're here means you believe this, and that warms my heart," Bush told those in attendance.

Recent statistics show high school dropouts are eight times more likely to go to prison and two times more likely to live in poverty.

The key to keeping kids in school is solid role models at home and in the classroom, Bush said.

"If you stand faithful to the fact that all children can learn, it's up to us to organize around them so that they do more often than not," Bush said. "And you have expectations that are higher and more meaningful for them, northeast Florida and Duval County and Jacksonville will take off."

To do that, leaders say the county needs to do a better job of recognizing great teachers and increasing their pay based on the positive impact they make in their students' education.

"Until we've had that 100 percent graduation rate, we still haven't gotten there," Vitti said. "But I can tell you this type of work, this type of initiative will fill those gaps and allow us to take this work to where it needs to go for every child."