Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Discipline Program Deserves City Funds

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Discipline Program Deserves City Funds

Article excerpt

The city of Jacksonville should keep paying its share for the Alternatives to Truancy and Out of School Suspension program.

The program - launched in 2009 as one of Jacksonville Journey's anti-crime initiatives - allows suspended Duval County Public Schools students to serve their discipline at one of five classroom centers across the city.

And it's clearly been an asset.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT IS KEY

It keeps suspended students from outside environments that might leave them unsupervised for hours.

It requires them to continue doing class work, which keeps them from falling behind on their educational paths.

And it makes a clear difference: Erika Jones, a school district graduate, recently told the Times-Union how the disciplinary program led her to change her behavior.

She's now studying business at a local college.

This year, the city is contributing slightly more than half - $826,824 - of the $1.5 million cost for the program; the Duval school district is picking up the remaining sum.

But Councilman Robin Lumb and Mayor Alvin Brown, among city officials, say Jacksonville shouldn't keep paying so much for the alternative suspension centers.

Indeed, Brown wants Duval schools to start paying 100 percent of the program's cost, beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

The mayor says the city would still provide non-financial assistance; for example, helping the district acquire grants for the program.

Sorry, but that's not enough.

The city should make a commitment to provide financial support for the program next year and beyond.

A WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT

Sure, it's somewhat understandable why city officials are pressing Duval Public Schools to assume the program's financial cost.

The city is still grappling with its enormous police and fire pension fund obligations.

And it has snipped and cut dollars out of worthy services and programs.

But the alternative suspension program is helping our entire community.

Its positive impact goes beyond the classroom walls.

How much is Jacksonville saving each day - in money, personnel and other resources - because it doesn't need to deal with suspended youths hanging around city neighborhoods during school hours? …

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