JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – State lawmakers are taking the public's temperature on having an elected school superintendent rather than one selected by the Duval County School Board.
Eight members of the Duval Delegation, a group made up of state representatives and senators from Jacksonville, voted 6-2 on Friday afternoon in favor of moving forward with that proposal.
The legislation is backed by State Rep. Jason Fischer, a former School Board member who wants to let voters -- not board members -- have the final say over who runs the school district.
"I think the voters and constituents and Jacksonville absolutely support their right to vote," Fischer said Friday. "And what we did today, as a delegation, is confirm...that we support the voters' right to vote."
Unsurprisingly, the bill has become a magnet for controversy, and that was evident Friday.
Everyone who spoke up at the meeting was against the proposal, including School Board and City Council members. All of them said the school system is running better now than ever before, saying that making superintendent an elected position is the wrong move.
Currently, the school district is led by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Diana Greene, who was appointed by the School Board. Under the proposal, and if voters approved, the role would be filled by election.
State Sen. Audrey Gibson voted against the measure, which she characterized as an attack on Dr. Greene. She questioned the motives behind the bill, specifically in light of the contentious fight between the city and School Board over a proposed sales tax referendum to repair and replace aging schools.
"It's sexist, racist and vindictive," Gibson said.
"That is absolutely ridiculous," replied Fischer, who said changing how superintendents are chosen would have no impact on Dr. Greene. He noted that it wouldn't become law until her contract expired.
The measure will now move to the full Legislature, which meets again in January. Lawmakers will possibly take up the measure then. If approved, it would become a referendum next November.