The LWVPBC Education Committee has been actively working to support the Countywide Education Referendum, which is the final question on the ballots for voters in Palm Beach County. Also endorsed by the county's Classroom Teachers Association, Parent Teacher Association, and other groups, the referendum would make a small increase in the millage rate of property to provide much-needed money for several key needs in our schools: increased pay for experienced teachers, expanded mental health services in our schools, support for arts enrichment programs, and filling the gap left by the legislature in funding the mandatory placement of police officers in all of our schools. Public education is essential to the effective functioning of our society, and it requires adequate funding to meet the needs of our community's students. The allocation of money will be overseen by a citizen's committee to ensure it is used for its intended purpose.
The tragedy in Parkland last spring raised public awareness of a fact that parents of students with disabilities have known for a long time: more resources are needed in our schools to help students with mental health challenges. For years, many schools shared school psychologists and counselors, whose duties include performing evaluations, attending IEP meetings, and sometimes (for counselors) teaching classes—leaving little time to get to know struggling students and provide services. While a state law passed in response to the shooting implemented new mandates for staffing of psychologists, social workers and counselors in schools, the legislation did not come close to providing the funding required to hire the number of professionals required to truly meet the need. The proposed increase in the millage rate would help to fill this gap, as it includes earmarks for funding of mental health services. For this reason and many others, the League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County has taken an official position supporting the Countywide Education Referendum.