State legislative action is having an incresingly profound effect on how local school systems operate both in terms of funding and instructional issues. Too often legislation is crafted without imput from professional educators as to the impact a particular proposal may have on the education experience of children.
Therefore, it has been the practice of our school system to carefull consider, draft, and adopt a set of legislative priorities to share with General Assembly members as they begin the legislative session in January. Beyond that, it has been our practice to maintain good communication channels with our representatives and senators, including visits to the Capitol during the session, keeping them current of our concerns and issues.
First, and foremost, we support the principle of local control.
The continued ability of local citizens to identify and implement basic programs and enhancements for the benefit of Spalding County’s students is founded in the Constitution of the State of Georgia. Local citizens, elected by their peers to serve in positions of trust on local boards and commissions, can best represent the views and concerns of their constituents on matters requiring an understanding of local conditions, circumstances, and desires. Molding and modeling a program of education instruction fits within this principle.
We support the following in the best interests of the children of Spalding County.
· We support education as the top priority for funding at the state level including full funding of the Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula and the addition of inflation adjustments that have not been updated in almost twenty (20) years (i.e. textbooks, instructional supplies, etc.). Over the past ten years, Griffin-Spalding County has faced the loss of approximately $35 million in formula earnings due to the imposition of “austerity reductions” in the State budget. The effect of continued austerity reductions in Spalding County, as elsewhere in the state, has been a reduction in the number of instructional days offered to students while lengthening time-wise the days students are in school. We support more time for school instruction for students, not less, while realizing the implications funding shortfalls play in our ability to offer such programs.
· We support the maintenance of a balanced system for funding essential and required public services such as education through the continued use of income, sales, and property taxes. A consistent and reliable revenue stream is essential to providing consistent and reliable educational opportunities for our students. In that regard, we oppose efforts to eliminate portions of the revenue stream through repeal or increased exemptions in a manner that disregards the effects of such on essential programs offered to our students.
· We support legislation that would reduce the allowed tax collection fee currently charged by county officials as a percentage of taxes collected. The loss of 2.5% of property taxes assessed to the county as a collection fee amounts to approximately $680,000 annually. We support reducing the collection fee by at least one-half in recognition of the minor incremental nature the addition of the school millage information to property tax bills represents to the county workload.
· We support legislation recognizing local boards of education as the proper authority to approve applications of charter schools in line to receive a portion of locally generated property tax revenues. We oppose the formation of a state-level commission to make charter school application decisions which result in the allocation of local property taxes to entities outside the responsibility of the local boards of education.
· We support the Vision for Public Education as adopted and published by the Georgia School Boards Association and Georgia School Superintendents Association. We support the recommendations contained therein to change the culture of education in Georgia from a child’s earliest learning experiences through graduation from high school. A full copy of the Vision for Public Education can be accessed through the Georgia School Boards Association website, www.gsba.com .
· We support state-led efforts such as the Race to the Top initiative which Spalding County joined early. We support legislation providing full funding for Race to the Top action steps when those come before the General Assembly.
· We support the application for accountability waivers submitted by State Superintendent Dr. John Barge related to proposed changes in the federal No Child Left Behind requirements.
We thank the members of the Spalding County delegation to the Georgia General Assembly for past support on issues related to education and look forward to a close, supportive working relationship in the future. We believe nothing is more important than providing the children of Spalding County with the best possible start in life. Education is key. The mutual cooperation of state and local officials is vital.
For more information on legislation, please see the Georgia School Boards Association website: www.gsba.com