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    Organization: Georgia Association of Educators     Date: 4/25/2018


  School systems pass legislative priorities for 2018  

(Monday,11/27/2017 ©  The Citizens)

CONYERS — Austerity reductions have cost the Rockdale and Newton school systems around $200 million since 2003, and the systems have called for legislation to end these reductions.

Both school systems have recently passed legislative priorities for the upcoming General Assembly session, which call for the end of austerity reductions and opposition to any legislation that would involve a state takeover of schools.

The systems have supported a platform from the Georgia Vision Project, which is seen as “the vehicle to raise awareness, address issues and enhance public education in the state of Georgia,” according to documentation from Newton County Schools.

According to data from Rockdale County Public Schools, austerity reductions have cost the school system $96.6 million since the austerity reductions came into place in 2003, while in Newton County, the reductions have cost the system $110 million since the reductions started.

The austerity reductions have meant the state of Georgia has not fully funded its local school systems since 2003, and the losses mentioned by both school systems were state funding that the systems missed out on due to state policy, and not due to anything done by either system.

The legislative priorities were largely echoed by Dr. Sid Chapman, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, who told the Citizen that the austerity reductions have meant systems have had to make sacrifices over the years.

“Well, there’s been like $9 billion in the last decade cut. The governor added back $580 million last year. Through all of those cuts, you start laying people off. Remember, we went through the Great Recession, and we had fewer days and furlough days.”

Chapman said the systems were required to decide whether to become a waiver-based district or a charter-based district. Both Rockdale and Newton County Schools are strategic waiver districts.

Chapman said other systems, in order to mitigate budget shortfalls caused by the austerity reductions, would hire fewer teachers and put more students in a class.

“What they decided to do was waive class sizes,” Chapman said. “You’d go from 25 minimum to 35 or 40. In that process, you’ll have fewer teachers hired and you’ll have overcrowded classrooms.”

The systems have also expressed explicit opposition to legislation that would attempt to “override the constitutional authority of our locally elected Boards of Education to make educational decisions deemed best for our local community,” as Rockdale County Public Schools put it.

That legislation was seen a year ago in the form of Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed Opportunity School District, which would have involved a state board of education taking control of schools that have scored a 60 or below in the CCRPI for three consecutive years.

The proposed Opportunity School District was opposed by numerous school systems and was defeated at the polls last November.

The two systems have also called for stability regarding the accountability system for school systems. The CCRPI indicators have been adjusted a number of times over the years and are expected to change for next year.

These changes have attracted criticism from both school systems, largely because the changing indicators have rendered it difficult for the systems to determine what goals they need to set.

Systems are asking for a “fair and equitable” accountability system, which would involve a consistent evaluation system for those in the school systems.

In addition, the systems have come out against vouchers, tax credits and other legislation that would take funding of public schools to private schools.