Archived Story

Atlanta won’t listen to school officials, maybe they’ll listen to us

Published 9:49am Friday, July 27, 2012

Over the past four years, I have attended the vast majority of all Decatur County Board of Education meetings. I have attended regular meetings, budget hearings, and workshops.

My purpose for attending these meeting is two-fold. First, it’s my job to report on activities and goings-on of the school board. I want to make sure that our readers are as informed as possible when it comes to the largest employer in the county and the benefactor of a huge chunk of our property taxes.

Second, I attend these meetings because I have a vested interest, as does every Decatur County citizen, in the school system and its ability to educate the children of this county. In my case, my vested interest includes McKenzie and Judson, my daughter and my son.

It really makes me worry and causes concern when I attend these meetings and the majority of the discussion time among the board members has nothing to do with how to better educate the children, provide them better opportunities, and better prepare them to face their adult lives.

Most times, the discussions revolve around how much funding has been cut or what new expensive mandates have been thrust upon them. Much time, energy, and effort is spent, and has been spent over the last several years, by this board discussing the wrong things. Financial issues rather than educational issues. That must stop.

Our state leadership in Atlanta has turned their back and shirked their responsibility to adequately fund our public education system. The Quality Basic Education Act of 1986 requires, among other things, sufficient and equitable financing to educate, free of charge, the children of Georgia.

There is a very complex formula, based on number of students, types of students, number of teachers and qualifications of teachers, that determines what a funding a school system should receive. Remember, this formula is constitutionally enacted.

However, not since before 2003 has the Decatur County School System received in funding what the formula says it should receive. In the past 11 years, our children have missed out on more than $24 million from the state that could have been used to benefit their education.

In the last three years, that reduction is a little over $12 million.

Dr. Fred Rayfield, superintendent of our school system, has said many times that the goal of the state legislature is to shift as many of the financial burden of public education from the state level to the local level. I believe that.

In my view, our funding issues from state is not a cash problem, it’s a priority problem. If public education were as high a priority as it should be in Atlanta, we wouldn’t be facing these issues. If something is important to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen. The legislators in Atlanta should be finding a way to make it happen.

Rayfield has said that the lawmakers in Atlanta are tired of hearing from school systems, teachers, and superintendents. They have been told to quit asking for sufficient funding. They say that they hear nothing from the general public relative to school funding. The legislature believes that if they hear nothing, there must be no problems.

If you believe there is a problem, like I do, please contact our state representatives in Atlanta. Representative Jay Powell (R-Camilla) will represent the northern portion of Decatur County starting next year. You can reach him at (229) 336-3962 at his office in Camilla or email him at jay.powell@house.ga.gov.

Representative Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville), starting next year, will represent the southern portion of Decatur County. Her Thomasville office telephone is (229) 225-9943 and her email address darlene@rose.net.

Our State Senator is John Bulloch (R-Ochlocknee). His district office telephone number is (229) 656-0040 and his email address is jbulloch@windstream.net.

If you are concerned about the financial direction that our school system is headed, let your feelings be heard and contact one these state lawmakers. Maybe they’ll get tired of hearing from us and correct the problem.

Jeff Findley is the publisher of The Post-Searchlight. You can email him at jeff.findley@thepostsearchlight.com.

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