Small, local and minority-owned businesses would get a boost under new regulations that passed a preliminary vote Wednesday by the Miami-Dade County School Board.
The proposal puts the finishing touches on programs the district has already launched to fairly spread out spending of its $1.2 billion general obligation bond, which was approved by voters in 2012 to fix up schools and upgrade classroom technology.
“It is actually the most sweeping policy adoption of inclusion, diversity and” minority- and women-owned business policies, said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
The new rules give preference to local companies seeking school district contracts, and open up more contracts for small businesses, as well as those owned by women, minorities and veterans. They apply to construction jobs and service contracts.
Getting here wasn’t easy. The district had to conduct multiple studies to prove there was inequity in the school system’s contracting practices. Under a Supreme Court ruling, such a study is required before public entities implement race- or gender-based policies.
Many of the measures included within the policy were put into place in January, but the revised rules will now apply to subcontractors. Previously, subcontractors couldn’t benefit because an initial study did not find inequity in that area.
But local leaders in the black community kept pressure on the school board, and Carvalho ordered another look at the district’s use of subcontractors. That study found a disparity.
“It was done in the spirit of equity,” Carvalho said.
In other business, the school board:
▪ Gave final approval to the $4.8 billion budget and a slightly lower tax rate. Property owners will pay $7.61 per $1,000 of taxable property value under the approved tax rate. Since property values are up, the typical homeowner claiming a homestead exemption would pay about $2 more this year in property taxes. However, those participating in the Save Our Homes program should save $46, according to the district.
▪ Approved the creation of a special seal that would be placed on high school diplomas to recognize graduates who learn another language while in school. Students will have to take at least four high school credits in a foreign language, make a 3.0 grade point average and pass certain tests in order to earn the seal on their diploma.
“Making students more competitive in the workforce, this will definitely go towards that,” said board member Lubby Navarro.