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    Organization: Georgia Association of Educators     Date: 3/20/2018


  Richmond County school system still facing challenges as Columbia County expands  

(Wednesday,10/25/2017 ©  WRDW-TV Augusta)

Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017

(News 12 NBC 26 News At 11)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Columbia County's Board of Education releases their projections for next school year and those numbers also have implications for Richmond County Schools.

It's still a tough road ahead for Richmond County when it comes to getting their students to graduation and some cuts at the top certainly aren't helping.

On some nights, you can catch Sarah Berry teaching a local art class in Richmond County. Other nights, she's at home helping her daughter with homework in Columbia County.

"My goal is to have my children graduate high school and go off to college," says Berry. "And so I want to give them the absolute best start."

Like many parents, it came down to choosing either Richmond or Columbia County. So she went with the latter.

"I just wanted to make sure she was going to be in the best school district," Berry says, "which ones had the best graduation rates, who is going to offer the most help for my child who was attention deficit disorder."

The Georgia Department of Energy's College and Career Ready Performance Index shows Richmond County schools were outperformed by 96 percent of the state's other school districts in 2016, receiving an "F" grade in the process. Meanwhile Columbia County, outperformed 88 percent of the state's other districts for a "B" grade.

The President of Georgia's Association of Educators says there are still some challenges facing the district.

"On the local level, you have property taxes and SPLOST," says President Dr. Sid Chapman. "But if you have an area where there's a higher poverty rate, the schools aren't funded as well and then you have folks going from county to county."

Military families play a role too. Numbers from the Georgia Department of Education show over the past five years, 19 percent of military students have left Richmond County schools while Columbia County saw a 25 percent increase.

Money from the top, Dr. Chapman says, is making things tough for state school districts like Richmond County dealing with a high poverty rate.

"We cut nine billion dollars over a decade from the budget," Dr. Chapman says, "so you're not really throwing that much money at it when you look at how much is being and has been cut."

As for Berry, she says parents play a big role too.

"Teachers can't teach if our children are acting a fool because they're not getting structure and the guidance at home," Berry says. "Educate your children on how they should act, that way when they're in school all they're doing is grasping everything. All they're doing is having their minds molded."

We know expansion is a big part of Columbia County and another 474 students are expected to come into the system next year along with more than a thousand kindergartners.