Duval County School Board approves $1.7B budget

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After months of meeting in workshops, at board meetings and at forums with the community, the Duval County School Board has given its stamp of approval on a $1.7 billion spending plan for the 2013-2014 school year.

"It wasn't easy but it took months of scrutiny, months of making difficult decisions and vetting. I think that you saw tonight a vote that was clear cut," said Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti.

DOCUMENT: Overview of DCPS 2013-2014 budget

As the new superintendent, this was Vitti's first budget proposal for the school district.

Some of the highlights parents will see immediately for the 2013-2014 school year include:

  • At least one security guard, unarmed, will be stationed at all elementary schools and an armed police officer at middle and high schools.
  • There will be a math coach at all low performing schools.
  • Magnet school transportation is back.
  • Music, art and physical education will be at every elementary school.

The new budget also provides access to laptops, iPads and iPods for 25 percent of students. 

"We took money from downtown that we were not spending on kids and put that in the classroom, which is where it will directly affect my children and your children as well," said District 7 School Board Member Jason Fischer.

The budget also calls for 300 district positions to be reduced.

"It wasn't easy, but it took months of scrutiny, months of making difficult decisions and vetting. I think that you saw a vote that was clear cut," said Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

Some of those people cut will be able to filter back into the school system as teachers, assistant principals and coaches.

"There's a human level with every one of those decisions that are made, and trust me, there are nights that I've thought about what impact does that have on that individual who works in the school system, especially for a long period of time," Vitti said. "But one thing that we've talked about is being child-centric with our focus and making decisions based on what's in the best interest of children."

It was a unanimous vote to approve putting security guards at elementary schools, something that will comfort some parents knowing there's an extra set of eyes on their children.

"It's to the point now where these kids feel like they can do whatever they want to do," said parent, Arielle Hester.