The Orange County School Board chair Teresa Jacobs easily won a second term on Tuesday, and a special property tax for public schools that covers teacher salaries as well as student activities like sports, the arts, and athletics was once again overwhelmingly backed by county voters. The former mayor of Orange County, Jacobs, easily defeated two other conservative opponents who supported some of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ contentious educational positions, notably as hostility to critical race theory.
Demensio Barton received 16% of the vote, Carl Brewer 15%, and Jacobs 69% of the vote. I’m so appreciative of the voters, added Jacobs. She pledged during her campaign to increase financing for employee pay, increase student access to mental health services, and maintain continuity in the district, which will soon welcome its first new superintendent in ten years. Jacobs expressed her delight at the voters’ resounding support for the special tax, which on average cost them around $240 a year.
Without it, Orange County Public Schools would have had to reduce its budget by nearly $177 million the following year. The community’s support for our students has me speechless, said Jacobs. Without it, “I don’t know what we’d have done.” Despite the fact that elections for school boards are non-partisan, DeSantis, a Republican running for re-election this year, intervened in the process by endorsing 30 candidates statewide, but none in Orange.
In Orange, a county with a Democrat majority, there were four seats up for election, and, similar to the battle for the chair, the bulk of the candidates who identified with DeSantis failed to win over a sizable portion of county voters. The other incumbent running for re-election, Angie Gallo, handily defeated a rival who boasted support from a number of right political organisations.
The only exception was Alicia Farrant, a representative of the right-leaning Moms for Liberty organisation, who joined DeSantis at a press conference earlier this year as he signed legislation giving parents more authority to examine texts used in public classrooms.
Farrant won the most votes on Tuesday in the competitive race for the District 3 seat. He will face Michael Daniels in a runoff in November.
In the August election, candidates must receive 50% plus one vote to win hands down. Members of the school board govern the system, which enrols more than 200,000 pupils and employs more than 24,000 people, for a period of four years. They bring in $47,189 annually. In the District 1 contest, incumbent Gallo handily defeated opponent Rachel Kirby, a veteran Florida PTA member and volunteer at the local school, who claimed that her resistance to mask mandates during the pandemic motivated her to run for office. Kirby received 37.5% of the vote against Gallo’s 62.5%.
In the District 2 election, Heather Ashby, an OCPS school counsellor, and Maria Salamanca, a partner in a venture capital business, will compete in November after receiving 32% and 27% of the votes, respectively. Johanna Lopez, the previous representative for District 2, resigned to run for the Florida House, leaving the seat vacant. Jose Vincente, Chad Aaron Spence, and George Collins were the other three contenders.
Board member Linda Kobert’s decision to forgo running for reelection left the District 3 seat vacant as well. Farrant, who together with her husband runs a Christian ministry, received 34% of the vote, while Daniels, a public college administrator, received 27.5%. The remaining votes were divided among Dennis Smith, Kila Murphey, and Susanne Marie Pena. The special property tax was approved by over 82% of Orange voters to be paid for an additional four years.
The tax, which has been in existence for the last 12 years, is expected to generate $818 million through the 2026–2027 academic year. According to officials, the funds will be used to pay teachers and maintain activities, just like in previous years. According to OCPS, the special tax cost homeowners whose homes were assessed at $265,030 — the county’s median assessed value — roughly $20 per month or $240 per year.
The tax gave the district more than $148 million last year. According to OCPS, it funded 1,165 positions for teachers, counsellors, and social workers in addition to team coaches and athletic trainers, as well as positions for teachers of music, drama, and art. It also paid for field trips and after-school tutoring programmes.
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