JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – What started as a tweet about television ended with Mayor Lenny Curry addressing crumbling schools and offering to spend city money to fix them.
On Sunday night, the Twitter account Jacksonville Education Matters replied to the Jacksonville mayor's tweet, which asked if people were watching "Sunday Night Football" or the Emmy Awards. Jacksonville Education Matters' tweet referenced the account's profile picture of an aging air conditioner and said, "I am working on lesson plans wondering if the AC in my class is going to work tomorrow."
Curry responded, asking for a private message with information and offering to fix it. Then he tweeted his email, asking any other teachers with maintenance issues to contact him.
The mayor's response pleased Aaron Pinkney, whose three children attend Duval County schools.
“If he’s going to come in and do it for the kids and help the kids then, yes, I’m always going to be behind that because it’s about the kids,” Pinkney said.
Curry spoke with News4Jax about the Twitter conversation. He said the city uses part of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office budget to supplement school resource officers' costs and said he would find money, but did not give us an answer about where he would get the money.
"There is a way to do it. We’re going to make an assessment now, if we actually hear there are ways to be helpful. I will do what my team does and figure it out and help solve a problem," Curry said.
The issue of crumbling schools is now leading to lawsuits. The Duval County School Board and parents are suing the city over the Jacksonville City Council's refusal to put a half-cent sales tax to improve school facilities on a referendum for voters.
Curry said he’s ready to pass a tax to fix Duval County schools, but his office and the schools can’t seem to agree on a plan for how the money will be spent.
“I wish that this leadership in our public schools would get in agreement for equity in all public schools, which includes charter schools, and an agreed-upon timeline that our City Council would agree on and I’ll sign it and we’ll go November 2020 and I’ll be all in,” said Curry.
The school district declined an interview, but sent News4Jax the following statement:
“We appreciate the Mayor’s personal interest in addressing the facilities and maintenance challenges at our schools.
"While his tweets offering assistance are appreciated, we’ve offered a bold plan to comprehensively address our facility needs and to improve safety and security at every school. The most effective approach would be to allow voters to have their voices heard. The ballot box, not Twitter, is the best way to solve the problem of Jacksonville’s outdated school facilities.
"Until then, we have an innovative and hardworking maintenance team that has been through all the requisite background screening to work on school campuses. Our team has proven to be very skilled at putting maintenance band aids on outdated systems. The issue is that many of these systems are well past their useful life and should be fully replaced, not just repaired. That is why our School Board’s proposal for a half-penny sales tax referendum is so important to the future of our schools."
As of Monday afternoon, Curry’s office had received seven emails related to school maintenance and two of them address specific issues.