A routine vote on a Palm Beach County proclamation at Tuesday’s county commission meeting prompted a lengthy discussion on school choice.
Commissioner Steve Abrams was asked to introduce declaring Jan. 22-28 as “School Choice Week in Palm Beach County.” The motion passed, but Mayor Paulette Burdick and new commissioner Mack Bernard voted no and did not sign the proclamation.
“If you go on their web site, it is very much about charter schools. It is very much about using public funding for vouchers and scholarships,” Burdick, who sat on the county school board from 1994 to 2010, said of the group National School Choice Week.
Abrams said the group is non-partisan and doesn’t lobby and that it fully supports the option of public schools.
“It’s not about charters,” he said. “It’s not about vouchers. It’s not about tuition tax credits. All those controversial type issues. It’s about appreciating that we offer choices in the county.”
Abrams said that after hearing fellow commissioners weren’t comfortable with the group’s original proposed wording, he rewrote it himself “to best reflect the types of choices our parents and
The proclamation “does not have to do with certain types of schools that some of us, myself included, are not happy about,” said colleague Mary Lou Berger, who said she and her siblings spent their youths in parochial schools. “It’s about the choice that parents have.”
Abrams then offered to change the wording to refer only to choice in Palm Beach County; “then we don’t have to affiliate with that group at all.” He even changed the date to Feb. 22-28.
Burdick still felt the commission, by approving the proclamation, was at least indirectly supporting the national group. Bernard did not speak on the issue.
Baker said Friday that Palm Beach County now has four 2-person crews applying chemicals on the ground, searching for and emptying water containers, and educating residents, and has a person on call in the Glades. She said workers will be armed with “newer, lighter and more effective backpack sprayers and hand foggers.”
Baker also said the county’s mosquito control hotline has received an “unprecedented” volume of calls. She said the county’s health department has begun training local medical professionals to conduct educational seminars with homeowner associations. And she said, several agencies have stepped efforts to find and get rid of illegally-dumped waste tires, which fill with water and become prime mosquito breeder sites.
Baker said some 240,000 flyers have been distributed. They’re being put in county water bills and sent to county libraries and other county locations as well as Palm Beach International Airport and the Port of Palm Beach. She said the county’s working with local cities and utilities to distribute the materials as well. The flyers include one from Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management (left).
Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay is urging county school board members to embrace the new sales tax plan she and her colleagues approved Tuesday.
The plan increases the amount of money schools, cities and the county would get from a penny on the dollar increase of the 6-cent sales tax. Because school board members had approved an earlier version of the sales tax plan – one that included a combined $161 million in set-asides for cultural projects and economic development incentives – they must take a new vote on the updated plan.
Two school board members, Debra Robinson and Frank Barbieri, attended the county commission meeting Tuesday and asked commissioners not to change the plan.
At McKinlay’s suggestion, however, commissioners voted to move forward with a new plan that does not include money for cultural projects or economic development incentives.
In a letter released after the vote, McKinlay pressed board members to back the new plan.
“It is my sincere hope that the Palm Beach County School District recognizes that the initiative approved by the County Commission (Tuesday) provides an estimated additional $54 million to our public schools to address their needs,” McKinlay wrote. “By partnering with us, it allows them to do additional capital projects like purchase much-needed school buses.”
The school board is expected to address the sales tax plan when it meets later today. Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com for more coverage on this topic.