JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three weeks from Tuesday, votes will be counted to decide who will fill two Duval County School Board seats.
Running in the second district are incumbent Elizabeth Anderson, a licensed mental health counselor, former teacher and administrator. And challenger April Carney, local business owner and nutrition coach.
Although they are opponents, there are a couple of issues they agree on. However, there are some areas where the candidates also differ.
VOTER’S GUIDE: Duval County School Board, District 2
Both candidates are mothers and business owners — and both gave similar answers when New4JAX asked about the teacher shortages in Duval County.
Both candidates agree that the teacher shortage is a pressing issue for the school board and that teachers need to make more money. The divide, however, started to show when it comes to where the source of that funding would come from.
“So my plan is that we need to really focus on taking care of our teachers. I know that after speaking to multiple teachers, they feel like there’s not enough support for them and that they’re not being respected in the classroom,” Carney said.
Andersen also pledged to be a board member who supports teachers but said part of the “disrespect” teachers are feeling was stoked by recent accusations about their intent.
“So we have to make sure that we’re supporting our teachers, that we’re able to get them the resources they need, that we are supporting them by giving them solid direction in this time where we are so divided and polarized, and lots of cultural battles are falling at the feet of our teachers,” Andersen said.
Those political skirmishes, Anderson said, are damaging the district’s ability to keep the focus on education.
“We want to make sure that our traditional public schools provide high-quality education for children, regardless of the political rhetoric that’s going around,” Andersen said.
According to Carney, the COVID-19 pandemic is mainly what causes teachers’ frustrations, which isn’t necessarily a contradiction, given how politicized the response to the pandemic got.
“I think that we’ve got a lot more restrictions in the classroom. There’s been a lot more red tape and a lot more paperwork that’s been having to be put forth on these teachers,” Carney said.
As voters decided on this school’s board race, they’ll also decide on a proposed millage rate increase to pay for teacher pay raises and supplement arts and athletics programs, which none of that money will be allocated to school board salaries.
Andersen said she will support the measure.
“I’m really concerned about making sure that all of our students have classrooms with teachers in front of them, fully staffed, fully funded, is what my goal is, obviously,” Andersen said.
On the other hand, Carney said she was uncertain.
“Honestly, I’m undecided at this point. It will be on my ballot, just like everybody else’s. But I am undecided,” Carney said.
One of the big issues the next school board will have to navigate is the replacement of Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene.
News4JAX asked the candidates what they would be looking for in a new superintendent.
“I believe that our superintendent needs to be supporting parents and teachers and keeping a transparent and open atmosphere with our public schools. We also need a superintendent that is a lover of the city and wants to see the city thrive and realizes that the decisions that we make as a district affect the entire city,” Carney said.
Andersen said more experienced educators and board members will pick a more qualified superintendent.
We want to make sure that we have a board that is experienced, that’s able to put the needs of our community and children first, and that we can hire a leader that will be with us for years to come that can manage our budget and, and puts the Duval County students and families,” Andersen said.
Carney had the endorsement of several Republican politicians such as Gov. Ron DeSantis and Congressman John Rutherford as well as the powerhouse conservation group Moms For Liberty.
Meanwhile, Andersen secured the endorsement of the local union Duval Teachers United, Families Deserve Inclusive Schools, Equality Florida, and two former school board members.