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Jacksonville Business Journal: duPont Fund to sponsor public dialogue on Florida’s ‘Tougher Choices’

Friday, March 14, 2014

First, they paid for the report, Tougher Choices, Shaping Florida’s Future. Now, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund wants to build the conversation.

Prepared by the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University, Tougher Choices is a sobering assessment of Florida’s needs in the areas of education, transportation, economic growth, taxes, income inequality and health care. It builds off a 2005 report, Tough Choices, and concluded that in the intervening nine years between reports that Florida has fallen further behind and faces a grim future if corrective action is not taken. You can read the report here.

“The very first step is awareness,” said duPont Fund president Sherry Magill, explaining that members are now reaching out to local business and political leaders to get them involved in a community dialogue, and that a public presentation in Jacksonville of the report findings will be scheduled soon featuring the University of Florida economists who wrote Tougher Choices.

“My biggest takeaway from the report is to see what happens when you don’t pay attention to these issues,” said Audrey Moran, an executive with Baptist Health and a member of the LeRoy Collins Institute board. “Every year we delay, the road gets harder and the hole gets deeper.”

Magill said she sees the fund’s financial support of the report as a way to develop an intelligent public discourse, under the belief that an informed citizenry will make good decisions. She added that she has been struck by the “shocking” disconnect between what the state’s elected officials have prioritized over the years, which do not match up with what studies have consistently shown the state needs to be doing, such as investing in improved public education.

“I grew up in south Alabama and at the time there were 2 southern states that we leading the pack in terms of places that were doing things right – North Carolina and Florida,” Magill said. “The joke was that Alabama and Mississippi would always be at the bottom of per capital education funding among the states, they would trade 49th and 50th back and forth. Now to see Florida there – that is shocking to me.”

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund operates as a trust under the will of Jessie Ball duPont, who died in 1970. Based in Jacksonville, the fund is a charitable foundation that issues grants to organizations and stimulates community problem solving.

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