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School leaders look ahead to 2017
Re-evaluation of funding a priority
0111nath morris
Nath Morris

Looking ahead to the new year, Gainesville and Hall County school officials remain committed to managing growth and funding capital projects, while staying focused on student achievement.

Gainesville School Board Chairwoman Delores Diaz said that adding to the challenges ahead will be “adjusting to a new funding formula from the state.”

The funding formula proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission is expected to be enacted by Georgia lawmakers. According to analysis by the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, the proposed funding formula won’t keep pace with costs, will eliminate the annual adjustment for teachers’ salaries in the current formula and shrink spending on each student over time.

“This formula directly impacts our budget planning that is imminent,” Diaz said.

However, Hall School Board Chairman Nath Morris said the current funding mechanism in place since 1985 known as Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding is inadequate.

“It’s time to reevaluate how we fund education when local school boards have no options in  dealing with significant increases in costs of employee health premiums and retirement plans that are set by the state,” Morris told The Times. “The remaining portion of funding not covered by QBE, is borne locally.”

Morris said that Hall’s 21 percent exemption rate from school taxes — one of the highest in the state —  has kept the county from keeping pace with neighboring counties since the recession, even though home sale values have exceeded the rate of growth.

“The bottom line is we need to take a serious look at where our priorities are and fund accordingly,” Morris said. “I feel education should be at the top.”

Diaz and Morris agree that the school systems need to do a better job at giving all students the opportunity to succeed.

Diaz cites “generational poverty” and the many social issues that accompany it as an impediment to students’ achievement and better college and career ready performance index (CCRPI) scores.

Morris said achievement goals such as achieving reading level by the third grade “can be challenging with our diverse population.”

Diaz said that Gainesville school officials will be faced in 2017 with selecting a new superintendent to replace the departing Wanda Creel.

“Each superintendent has a personal leadership style and vision for education” Diaz said. “We must prepare for the transition and adapt to changes.”

Hall’s School Superintendent Will Schofield calls on education leaders to reevaluate the “one-size-fits all K-12 system,” which he said often misses the mark.

“Millions of students leave U.S. schools every year with little or no hope of participating in post-secondary training,” Schofield said. “We need to provide numerous additional pathways to graduation. “This will be fundamental if we are to prepare students who come with incredibly varied interests and aptitudes for the high-paying jobs of the future.”