Based on his experience, insights and research, Jacksonville-based businessman Gary Chartrand told a record crowd at a business lunch last week that public education must be improved.
“We can do better,” Chartrand told more than 180 people on Jan. 31 at the Global Business Luncheon at The River Club Downtown. It was co-hosted by the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville and The Gate Governors Club.
“The public must get involved,” he said. “They must get outraged.”
Chartrand is the executive chairman of the Jacksonville-based Acosta Sales & Marketing merchandising company. He also is heavily involved in education, supporting the first KIPP School in Jacksonville and serving on its board. He also chaired the Public Education Fund and was recently appointed to the Florida Board of Education.
His family also created The Chartrand Foundation to improve educational opportunities for children in Duval County through strategic investments that encourage and support early learning and to strengthen the public educational system.
Chartrand outlined lessons and suggestions learned through his research and experience. He said schools need excellent teachers who undergo a rigorous education to enter the profession; that teachers need reasonable, equitable salaries; and that teaching should be considered an independent and respected profession.
He said the system needs great leadership, a high quality of human capital that is of high character and competence and a culture of high expectations.
“Too often we look for that safe, comfortable place,” he said.
Chartrand also said that education needs “unreasonable leaders,” which he explores in his 2010 book, “Unreasonable Leadership.”
Chartrand also called for repealing the state’s class-size amendment. In 2002, Florida voters approved an amendment to the Florida Constitution that limits the number of students in core classes in the state’s public schools. The Legislature appropriated operating funds of almost $3 billion a year the past five years.
“We need to repeal the class-size amendment and take the money and reinvest it” he said. Of the class-size requirement, he said there is “no empirical evidence anywhere” that it improves student performance.
“There is so much more that can be done,” he said of the $3 billion a year.
Chartrand said the educational system needs more time for students to stay on task, more support for struggling students and more investment in early childhood education.