The Cherokee County Board of Education is again asking Georgia lawmakers to ensure full funding for public education, and to update the state’s education funding formula.

Thursday, the board passed its annual legislative priorities, a list of requests to the Cherokee County legislative delegation.

This year’s list continued to ask lawmakers to end “austerity cuts” to the state’s funding formula, to overhaul the formula to account for the actual cost of services, such as transportation, counselors and school police.

Like in previous years, the board asked lawmakers to oppose any programs that “directly or indirectly use public funds to pay private school tuition for students or provide tax incentives for their parents.”

Two residents spoke about the priority list. Both said that many of the priorities are about state funding.

Brian Walker from Acworth said based on the list, the board’s focus “appears to be more about money, not about excellence.”

Both residents also said they were concerned about the school board’s position on school choice.

Justin McWhorter, a Hickory Flat resident, said a Cherokee County School District spokesperson told him the school board does not oppose the state’s Special Needs Scholarship Program under Senate Bill 10. The statement does not refer to any specific legislation.

“I would ask that that statement be amended so that it is very clear that this board does not oppose special needs scholarships,” he said. “Our family, a number of people we know, need those to help those in private schools that do help them tremendously.”

According to CCSD, the district’s state funding was reduced by $9.4 million this school year.

School board member Clark Menard acknowledged that many of the requests are about funding. But, after two decades of the state not fulfilling its obligation under its own formula, much of what the board is asking for is simply what the district is owed, he said.

“Yes, we want to make sure that we get our fair share. You would call us fiscally irresponsible if we didn’t try to get the most for our students that we can,” Menard said. “Believe me, there’s problems in education that money certainly isn’t going to solve, but it does take money to run this school district. And it does take money to pay teachers.”

CCSD Chief of Staff Mike McGowan said the district is not asking for a repeal of any part of the Special Needs Scholarship Program or any existing legislation, but that any voucher programs have a “fiscal and academic accountability structure” to hold private schools to the same standards as public ones.

“Both speakers mentioned the majority of our program is about money. It is about money, that’s the state legislature’s job, to fund public education. So shame on us if we don’t talk about how we’re funded and how we’ve been cut over the years,” McGowan said. “Since 2002, we’ve had 218.5 million in austerity reductions. We’ve been fully funded two of those 19 years, so to not oppose an expansion of the system that moves money out of the public sector, it’d be irresponsible for us to take a different position.”

Also in the priorities, school board members asked legislators to end a state law that requires school districts to make schools available as polling locations, citing security concerns.

The board also asks the Cherokee delegation to support an alternative high school diploma option for career and technical preparation.

In a new request this year, school board members ask lawmakers to support Mountain Education Charter High School, which administers the school district’s night school.


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