The Duval County Legislative Delegation made a bad decision to support Rep. Jason Fischer’s local Bill J-1, which will allow voters to elect Duval County’s Superintendent of Schools.

The members of the delegation who voted 6-2 to support this bill gave precedence to politics, power and race.

Initially, Fischer’s bill focused on allowing the mayor to appoint the members of the Duval County School Board, which would have basically removed our current elected board members. After receiving pushback from this organization and other public-school advocates, he amended his bill to allowing voters to elect the school superintendent.

His rationale for an elected superintendent was flawed and it was criticized by the Times-Union Editorial Board, Folio and other local media sources that all noted that Duval County does not need to return to an elected superintendent.

The Duval County Legislative Delegation failed to take the following facts into consideration when they chose to support Fischer’s bill.

When the Duval County Public Schools had an elected superintendent, our high schools were disaccredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Furthermore, the independent Peabody Report recommended an appointed superintendent.

In the comprehensive study, the Peabody Report noted that the rapidly changing Duval County Public School System needed high quality professional leadership to promote working relationships with the governing board and promote creative leadership. The report noted that this is difficult to achieve with the politics surrounding an elected superintendent.

After a series of appointed superintendents, Duval County Public Schools are 1 percentage point from being an A-rated school district. In addition, the Duval school district is doing a better job with African-American students than most other large urban school districts in Florida.

Recently, the Duval County Public Schools along with Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange and Palm Beach County School Districts were recognized nationally as being among the Top 100 School Districts in the United States.

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools, confirmed that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the gold standard of educational ratings) lists Duval County Schools near the top and validates the Duval school district as one of the highest performing big city school districts in the nation.

While Fischer says that most Florida counties have elected superintendents, the fact is that all seven of the largest urban school districts in Florida have an appointed superintendent. The majority of the school districts that Fischer is referencing are rural districts with very few people.

It should be noted that no other large urban school district’s legislative delegation is supporting or introducing legislation to elect their district school superintendent.

Data indicates that Duval’s student performance is continually increasing, organization efficiency and effectiveness is evident in the current leadership and the Duval County School Board is providing governance that is ensuring adherence to policies that support institutional effectiveness, so why is this radical change being advocated by our delegation?

The Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP gives kudos to Sen. Audrey Gibson and Rep. Tracie Davis for their support of the Duval school district and their candid comments concerning this proposal and the rationale for it.

However, it is evident that Sen. Aaron Bean, Reps. Cord Byrd, Clay Yarborough, Kimberly Daniels, Wyman Duggan and Fischer made decisions have been tainted with pure politics, power and race when it comes to addressing the needs and support of the Duval County Public Schools, its leadership and its governing board.

Hopefully, the electorate will voted out those six members soon and the full Florida Legislature, during its 2020 legislative session, will not entertain their bad bill.

The Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP is in total opposition to this decision and encourages all voters to contact members of the Duval Delegation to inform them that educational decisions should not be made on the basis of partisan politics, power and race.

Isaiah Rumlin is president of the Jacksonville Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.