Struggling district cuts millage

Parents have contacted Inweekly about the Escambia County School Board’s vote yesterday to cut the millage from 6.325 in 2018-2019, to 6.043 in 2019-2020.

In the district’s press release, School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas defended the cut citing how well the district did in its school grades.

“For ten years, the District and the School Board have worked together to increase measurable results, such as our graduation rate, while increasing school security and responding to budget modifications out of our control, like a shift in state assessments from FCAT to FSA tests,” said Thomas. “We are very proud to say we have done this without a cost increase to our taxpayers.”

“School and District grades came out a few weeks ago, and this is a year to celebrate. “

Superintendent Malcolm Thomas

Parents react

“I’m not saying money fixes all our school problems, but why in the world would we cut our own budget,” shared one parent. “We could hire more reading specialists, provide better equipment, textbooks, etc.—makes no sense.”

“Holding the line on taxes and preserving mediocrity for all.”

Escambia County parent

“Why in the hell would they do this?” wrote another parent.  “They need all the revenue they can get to pay teachers, maintenance projects etc.”

“Malcolm is trying to make the new superintendent look bad when they have to raise millage to make ends meet! No one expects the school district to rebate the taxpayers. “

Escambia County parent

Median Teacher Salary

According to the Florida Department of Education, the Escambia County School District has the lowest median salary for its teachers of any Florida district with more than 2,000 teachers. Escambia teachers are paid more than $4,400 less than the state average.

08PALM BEACH12,554$46,163
12ST. JOHNS2,438$45,225
23ST. LUCIE2,389$41,880

Malcolm’s Alternate Reality

With a year left in office, Thomas is desperately trying to create his own alternate reality about the Escambia County School District by touting his C schools.

To earn a C, a school must score at least 42%. When you were in school, C grade probably ranged 70-79%.

The Florida Department of Education measures success by A’s and B’s . Statewide, 63% of Florida’s public schools earned an A or B. Escambia County only had 41% with an A or B.

For all of Thomas’ trumpet blowing about how much the school district improved, Escambia County improved only one percentage point over last year – going from 54% to 55%. The minimum score to earn a “B” is 54%.

When you were in school, anything below 65% earned a F.

The Department of Education lists the 300 Lowest Performing Elementary Schools in the state. Of the school districts with similar student populations –30,000-50,000 students– Escambia had the most elementary schools on the list – 12.

Of the district’s nine non-charter middle schools, two are in the bottom 20 middle schools in Florida: Workman and Warrington. Out of 393 non-charter high schools in Florida, Pine Forest, Escambia and Northview are in the bottom 30.

Among the state’s larger school districts – 20,000 or more students – Escambia County School District had lowest percentage of students performing on grade level or higher in Mathematics and Social Studies; only two districts were lower in English Language Arts and Science.

What are we celebrating? Thomas’ departure next year?