A promise to Lee County’s children
March 7, 2018


To the editor:

I have lived in Lee County for 30 years and know the multiple ways our children here are underserved. I, like so many others, have been involved in a variety of organizations which work diligently to improve the health and welfare of those living in substandard circumstances. But in spite of these many productive efforts, I was shocked to read the true state of affairs in Lee County in 2018.

Twenty-five percent of our children live in poverty - a rate far higher than the state of Florida and the United States. Our teen violent death rate is more than twice the Florida average. Only 31 percent of our children enter kindergarten academically ready - 43 percent of our third-graders test at or below satisfactory in reading. Our high school graduation rate is at 77 percent. Lee's teen birth rate is higher than Florida and national rates at 6.8 percent. More of our children are uninsured (18 percent) than Florida's average. Finally, FutureMakers Coalition recently reported a large gap in supply and demand for "job ready" employment applicants in Lee County.

Now, here's the good news: We as Lee County voters are allowed by the state of Florida to create a government entity, Children's Services Council, which would help fund organizations that serve children and families. Through our county commissioners, Lee County would establish this independent body of citizens and county leaders serving as "an umbrella for leadership, coordination, and oversight of efforts focused on children." Established in 1945, the eight Florida counties who have created CSCs did so by a majority vote of their county commissioners, who then placed the CSC on the next ballot for approval by county voters. Therefore no petition drive, both onerous and expensive, was ever required.

Action for all of us now is two-fold and immediate:

n Telephone Commissioners Cecil Pendergrass (239-533-2227), Larry Kiker (239-533-2223) and Brian Hannan (239-533-2226) urging them to join Commissioners John Manning and Frank Mann, who are ready to support a CSC. You might also wish to thank both Mann (239-533-2225) and Manning (239-533-2224) for their approval. The next commission meeting is March 20 and the public is encouraged to attend.

n We need to donate to P4CP, Pennies for Community Progress, P.O. Box 465, Fort Myers, FL 33902.

This fundraising arm of CSC will use donated sums to educate voters how the local CSC will use community funds to invest wisely in programs, ensuring children are healthy, safe and prepared to learn and succeed in school. And the cost of a CSC to each taxpayer? Only $40 to $100 maximum per year, or 0.05 percent ad valorem annually. P4CP polling shows that 56 percent of Lee voters support the creation of a CSC.

Finally, it is to be noted that the eight Florida counties who already have CSCs are putting Lee County's children, no matter what their economic status, at a distinct disadvantage. We, Lee County citizens, promise our families we care about them and are prepared to support all our children, knowing with your help, our county commissioners' majority will give ballot approval of a CSC.

Jill Dillon



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