Broward County Public Schools calls it the “Secure the Next Generation Renewal” referendum.
It picks up where the 2018 referendum leaves off. That boost for public education, which expires this year, raised property taxes by one mil. It allowed the school district to hire hundreds of security and mental health personnel and provided an average salary bonus of $4,000 per teacher.
Now the district is asking voters to approve another half-mil rate hike.
“We are woefully underfunded by the legislature, in South Florida, all three counties, Dade, Broward and Palm Beach have had to go out for local referendums in order to cover the costs that the legislature does not,” said Lisa Maxwell of the Broward Principals and Assistant’s Association.
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She spoke at a news conference called to promote the measure, which will be on the primary ballot on Aug. 23.
“This referendum pays for people," said school board chair, Laurie Rich Levinson. "The funding will fund more than 500 school safety personnel and a hundred mental health professionals."
“And then let’s talk about the safety and security component,” added Broward Teachers Union president, Anna Fusco. “Which we know, unfortunately, we’re living it right now all over again with that trial that’s happening right down the street — the rationale of why we need to make a tighter, more secure school environment.”
The referendum would generate $214 million for traditional public schools and $53 million for the county’s public charter schools.
“The average homeowner would invest approximately $26 per month which is $13 more than their investment with the current referendum,” said the superintendent, Dr. Vickie Cartwright.
Teachers say it could literally mean the difference between staying in the profession or leaving.
“We would really love to see that support, it’s really vital, just to keep us teachers because there’s a lot of movement, and we know that teachers can make different choices, do we stay in the classroom or do we proceed and look elsewhere?” said Eva Rothal, who teaches at Cypress Bay High School.
Cartwright said passing the referendum would also provide an economic boost, but allow teachers and staff to live in the county.
“We want our employees to be able to live and work and play in the same community here in Broward County,” Cartwright said.
If the referendum fails, salaries in the school district will drop to 2018 levels, and Cartwright said there would have to be cutbacks in student programs to avoid layoffs. She said everything from athletics to music to art might be impacted.
Addressing the skeptics, Cartwright says an outside audit was done. The 2018 referendum showed the funds were well-spent and not wasted.
She pledged the same thing would happen with this referendum.