When the Great Recession hit and Florida made brutal cuts to education funding, local school leaders were forced to make some painful decisions to balance the budget. The result was the loss of many art and music teachers, media specialists and other critical positions and programs. It was a scenario played out in school districts across the state and the nation in the following years, and many districts have not yet recovered what they lost.
Fortunately for Alachua County schools and students, those worst of those losses lasted just a year. No, the state didn't restore education funding to its pre-recession levels, and it still hasn't. Instead, local citizens voted to provide additional funding to our community's schools through the One Mill, which costs the average homeowner about $7 a month.
Alachua County voters have since renewed the One Mill twice. In fact, 77% of local voters approved the renewal of the One Mill this past Election Day, a new record!
As a parent, I'm grateful that my younger children will continue to have access to the programs and services that my older children received when they were going through our school system-art and music, school libraries, guidance counselors, academic and career magnets, classroom technology, even a school nurse.
As a businessman, I know that businesses and professionals looking to relocate to Alachua County will be attracted by a school system that offers a strong and comprehensive education. They'll also be impressed by a community that overwhelmingly supports its public schools.
It's been my pleasure to lead the educational advocacy group Citizens for Strong Schools since that first One Mill campaign in 2008. Our group is made up of parents, educators, business people, retirees and other residents who are committed to our schools and students.
We are very fortunate to have the active support of other like-minded organizations, including the newly re-formed Alachua County Council of PTAs, the Alachua County Education Association and the League of Women Voters, just to name a few. The members of these organizations and a host of other local citizens gave their time, talent and money over the last several months to ensure that voters understood what the One Mill is all about and why it's important to all of us.
On behalf of Citizens for Strong Schools, our partner organizations and most of all, our children, I want to thank the people of Alachua County for renewing their investment in our local schools. I'm proud to be a part of a community that cares so much about our schools, teachers and the children they are preparing for successful futures.
Mark McGriff, Chairman
Citizens for Strong Schools