A Letter from the Chairman

Welcome to yesforAlachuaschools.org, the website for Citizens for Strong Schools. We are a volunteer group of local businesspeople, parents and community leaders who are committed to ensuring that we will continue to have high quality schools in Alachua County.

As a businessman and parent, I recognize that the entire community benefits from having an A-rated school system. Just recently we learned that Alachua County's students earned the highest scores in the state on the SAT, and did far better than their peers across the nation on the college placement test. Our students also rank first in the state on the prestigious Advanced Placement exam. They top the state averages on the challenging Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Three of our high schools are among the top 3% of schools nationwide according to Newsweek magazine.

These are the kind of outstanding results we've come to expect from our students, teachers and schools. Without that level of quality, our community cannot attract the new businesses, new jobs and new citizens that mean a better standard of living and a better quality of life for all of us.

Currently our schools are facing their biggest threat in decades. State and federal budget cuts are affecting every aspect of our educational system, from academic magnet programs to electives to transportation to classroom technology to school nurses. Alachua County schools have lost $14 million in state funds in the last year, and more cuts are coming. This in a state that already ranked 50th in per pupil funding compared to wealth according to the Census Bureau.

Florida has developed a national reputation for its dismal public school funding. In fact, a recent Time magazine article referred to the state "slashing school budgets that were already among the nation's stingiest."

The members of Citizens for Strong Schools are very concerned about the impact of inadequate school funding on the quality of education and the quality of life in our community. That's why we are advocating a one mill increase in property taxes. The one mill would last just four years and cost the average Alachua County homeowner about $10 a month. But with that small individual investment, we can maintain the programs that have made our schools so successful.

The one mill will appear on the November 4 general election ballot. If approved by Alachua County voters, it would go into effect in July of 2009. An independent oversight committee of local citizens will ensure that the funds raised through the one mill are spent appropriately.

You will find more specific information about the one mill initiative and about Citizens for Strong Schools on this site. I encourage you to learn all you can about this critical issue and to help our organization communicate with more citizens by contributing to this effort. Donating is easy-just click on the 'Donate' link near the top left side of the page to donate online. You can also send a check made out to Citizens for Strong Schools, Inc. to:

Citizens for Strong Schools, Inc.
1120 NW 13th Street
Gainesville, FL 32601

Thank you for your interest in maintaining a high quality of education in Alachua County schools. Remember, one mill matters...for kids, for classrooms and for all of us.

Sincerely,
Mark McGriff, Chairman
Citizens for Strong Schools