It’s time to put children first, not party politics

When I ran to serve District 2 of the Duval County School Board in 2018, I was motivated by three overarching issues:

  1. To ensure the safety and protection of our children in our schools.
  2. To ensure that the developmental and emotional needs of our children are met.
  3. Improve the academic success of each student.

As a licensed mental health counselor and former high school teacher, I believe having this perspective is essential within our school board. The council has worked tirelessly to put children at the forefront of every discussion and decision. Yet we continue to hear people peddling inaccuracies that our schools are failing and that we don’t care about our students and their families.

I believe that our public schools are a cornerstone of American democracy, that our children should be educated so that they can reach their full potential as industrious, engaged, and responsible citizens, and that together we can continue to strive for a more perfect union. Unfortunately, the misinformation we hear in public comments at our school board meetings fuels distrust and chaos.

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Propaganda and dangerous rhetoric are divisive and toxic to our community. I am deeply troubled that there are people in our community who want to introduce partisan politics into the decisions of our board of directors and are willing to use our children as political pawns.

The truth is that, despite setbacks from a global pandemic, our children have — by and large — been able to maintain their academic progress. Yet our passionate teachers are under attack. Rifts are created between educators who love and respect our children and the families they seek to serve and support.

We must not lose sight of our commitment to the future of our communities and our children. Young people see us as models, a compass to navigate in this constantly changing world. It is up to us to set an example that shows that people matter more than politics.

If children and education are important to you, I invite you to inform yourself. Duval County Public Schools are a fraction of a percent away from being an “A” rated district. We don’t have “F” schools; we teach Florida BEST standards set by the Florida Department of Education. The board, teachers and staff work hard to provide safe and welcoming environments for every child, every day, regardless of race, religion, ability, gender or postcode.

The school board also works hard to face obstacles head-on with honesty and transparency. While there is always room to grow and improve, we cannot be distracted by this misinformation campaign. Adults bickering over ideological and cultural battles distract us from the work of raising children. Let’s put our children first, not partisan politics.

Vote for school board candidates in the August 23 primary election. Visit Andersen4DCPS.com to learn more.

Duval County School Board District 2 Member and Candidate Elizabeth Andersen

This guest column is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of The Times-Union. We welcome a diversity of opinions.