Freedom. Responsibility. Vote!

Guest Correspondence


In the spirit of celebrating Independence Day, it is opportune to reflect on our nation’s great attributes and the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans.

On this July 4, 2020, it is 269 years since Benjamin Franklin began working on his greatest experiment, that of uniting then-British colonies into one nation, and 244 years since the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

For two-and-a-half centuries, our republic has endured and adapted in response to the values of its people, increased participation of diverse segments of our society and met citizens’ needs that shifted along with changing times. 

That’s a long time for any institution to exist, especially one initially regarded as a great experiment. But an even older institution is credited with the longevity of our nation’s form of government and that is public education.

The first public school opened in the American colonies in Boston, Mass., in 1635. Soon after, the first free taxpayer-supported public school opened in 1639 in Dorchester, Mass. These openings preceded the Declaration of Independence by 141 and 137 years, respectively.

Public education was viewed as important by our country’s founders, and the responsibility was bestowed at the state level as described in Article IX of the Florida Constitution: “The education of children is a fundamental value… and a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”

In Florida, that responsibility was handed to each county to operate a school district where a “local school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district and determine the rate of school district taxes within the limits prescribed herein.”

As parents, grandparents and community members, we all want what is in the best interests of our children. While COVID-19 may have disrupted our lives for now, we have demonstrated our value for education by approving a tax referendum to provide additional revenue in support of our local schools; and we have been actively involved in our children’s classrooms, supporting teachers and volunteering in our schools. It is clear that we care about public education, and we care a lot. 

That is why it is vitally important that we pay attention to our local school board and the local election that goes with it. Both primary and general elections are important as it is possible the school board election will be determined in the Aug. 18 primary.

This November, the ballot will be long. It will include everything from the President of the United States to municipal races. There is a lot for which to prepare— to learn, understand and make decisions. 

While much attention is rightfully garnered at the presidential level, it is equally (if not perhaps more) important to pay attention to, prepare for and vote for the local positions. They may not get as much air time as a presidential candidate or even a state legislator may get, but these local positions, including

the two open Sarasota School Board seats, will be guiding our district.

I hope you will take the requisite time to learn, understand and vote for the two open seats on the School Board. I believe both seats deserve every citizen’s careful thought and research.

I encourage you to register if you aren’t already registered to vote, and make sure you exercise your right and responsibility to vote. For yourself, your neighbors, your children, the future. It’s Independence Day. Let freedom ring!

Jennifer Vigne is president and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

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