Board of Education to focus on securing state funding

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

The Henry County Board of Education’s annual legislative priorities, as they have for the past several years, are focused mostly on securing more state funding.

The priority list for the 2017 session of the Georgia General Assembly is now under a 30-day public review period and will be considered for approval in January, just before the session begins.

The first area addressed is titled “Maximize Available Funding for Schools.” The statement expressed support for efforts by the Governor’s Education Reform Commission to develop a new K-12 school funding formula and suggested several criteria: that the funding program be student-based; that it allow district flexibility for use of funds; that it is predictable and reliable; that it generates adequate funding at least equal to what would be allotted by the current QBE formula if it were fully funded; and that it retains an equalization grant to ensure equitable funding for less-wealthy school districts.

The school system also urged state legislators to explore statewide options for helping school districts with the rising costs of health benefits to local school boards and their employees. “This should include strategies to address the rising costs for providing health benefits to non-certificated personnel,” officials stated.

The funding plea extended to capital projects, with a request to keep the State Capitol Outlay Program at the 100-percent funding level for both the Regular Entitlement and the Exceptional Growth categories. District officials also want legislators to continue the State Bond Program for the purchase of school buses as well as funding “to help districts build and maintain a solid technology infrastructure.”

The school board is supporting several recommendations of the Governor’s Education Reform Commission regarding teacher recruitment and retention, and is also in favor of efforts to expand pre-kindergarten access for four-year-olds.

“We are committed to building a culture of personalized learning that supports the unique needs and interests of students and empowers them with greater voice and choice in their learning,” according to the document released by the board. “We urge legislators to empower local districts with the capacity and autonomy to create innovative and flexible learning options for students and to recognize that legislation which diverts limited resources from public schools is detrimental to this vision.”

The county’s legislative delegation consists of the following elected officials:
State Sens. Emanuel Jones (District 10) and Rick Jeffares (District 17).
State Reps. Karen Mathiak (R-73), Sandra Scott (D-76), Demetrius Douglas (D-78), Pam Stephenson (D-90), Dale Rutledge (R-109), Andy Welch (R-110), Brian Strickland (R-111) and David Knight (R-130).