200+ Celebrate Reading, Education and Community at Beaches Back-to-School Book Bash
More than 200 children, parents, grandparents, partners and friends enjoyed a community celebration highlighting the importance of books and public education last weekend during the Beaches Back-to-School Book Bash at Donner Park. The event featured free books and school supplies provided by a host of community organizations, as well as food, arts & crafts, a bounce house, fire truck visit, face painting and more! Organized by BAM, participating groups included the Beaches Library, BEAM, Healthy Start, Jax NOW, League of Women Voters, Moms Demand Action, Moms Rising, NAACP, Public School Defenders, and READ USA.
Special thanks to all of the businesses, community groups and volunteers whose generous contributions made the Book Bash possible: Moms Rising, Publix, Native Sun Market, Scotie Cousins, League of Women Voters, the Book Mark, FSCJ Artists Series, Indivisible Mandarin, Jax Fire & Rescue, Friends of the Library, Scott Tatum-Hair Peace, more than a dozen volunteers (including Brenda Shields, Helen Urban and Mary Blue Ster who provided the most creative arts & crafts ever for the kids), and the BAM Board!
Postcarders! Join Jax NOW, LWV on August 23 to
Reach Returning Citizens
Join Jax NOW on Wednesday, August 23 from 6:30 - 8 p.m. and help contact returning citizens (persons with prior felony convictions) who may be eligible to have their voting rights restored. The League of Women Voters is providing preprinted postcards that provide guidance on how these citizens can contact pro bono legal service providers to begin the work of having their rights restored. Postcarders are needed to address the cards and write a few words of encouragement on them. The event will take place at 13475 Atlantic Blvd, Unit 8 (in the Fresh Market Shopping Center across the ditch!). RSVP here or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help!
Back-to-School One Week In: Vouchers, Superintendent Search, Curricula Challenges
Duval County children headed to school last week as the district grapples with a new state voucher program, the search for a new superintendent, and continued challenges to what teachers can teach and students can learn.
This is the first school year after the passage of HB 1 which removes income restrictions and enrollment caps for private school scholarships. According to state reports, more than 350,000 students have already applied statewide for the vouchers with 2,000 new requests coming in daily. Duval County is projecting at least a 50% increase in students using private school vouchers compared to last year when the program was more restrictive. About 68% of eligible students attended public schools in the county last year, with total enrollment expected to dip below 100,000 this year. The new voucher program effectively shifts funding from public to private and religious schools, which are subject to few requirements and may selectively enroll students. The legislature set aside $3.4 billion to offset funding losses, but long-term, local school districts are expected to cover an increasing share of the costs. Meanwhile, the school board has adopted a timeline for finding a new superintendent targeting January 1, 2024 as a start date for the new leader. The timeline includes an online survey open through September 6th to gather public input, as well as a series of community forums. One of the forums will be held at Fletcher High School on August 31 at 11 a.m. with virtual and in-person participation. Register here to participate online. Finally, schools continue to be a battleground for GOP culture wars --- the most recent on whether schools could offer an AP Psychology course that appeared to violate state bans on content addressing gender and sexual orientation. The state previously rejected a new AP course on African-American studies as part of the governor's anti-woke campaign. This is an important reminder that ALL elections matter. Four school board seats will be on the ballot in 2024. School board races across the country have become a focus for far-right groups, like Moms for Liberty. And, the 2024 ballot will include a constitutional amendment making school board races partisan, thanks to action by the legislature. Be prepared to weigh in on this and other vitally important issues in 2024.Check your voting status and renew your vote-by-mail request here.
Mark Your Calendar! BAM Membership Meeting September 14th
GOP Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy wants to raise the voting age to 25? Find out what young voters think of that idea at the September 14th BAM Membership meeting at 7 p.m. at the Adele Grage Cultural Center. Guest speakers Millie Leeds, president of the Jacksonville Young Democrats, and Era Gashi, president of the UNF Democrats, will join us to talk about Gen Z and Millennial voters --- what issues they care about, where they get their information, and how they vote. Mark your calendar and plan to attend as we discuss ways we can support and engage younger voters who will be critical to the outcome of the 2024 election!