Thanks to Anne Davidson, legislation chair of the East Cobb County Council of PTAs (ECCC PTA), for the following information from last Thursday's education funding meeting at Walton High School.
She says more than 250 parents turned out to hear from Cobb school officials and state lawmakers on the severe funding shortfalls (the projected Cobb deficit for fiscal year 2015 is already $79 million).
The panelists included: State Representatives Sharon Cooper and Valerie Clark, Cobb County School District Superintendent, Michael Hinojosa, Cobb County Board of Education members, Scott Sweeney and David Banks, and Walton High School Principal Judy McNeill.
The photos were taken by Julia Curran Villareal of Julia Curran Photography.
There's another school funding meeting next Thursday, Jan. 23, at 7:15 p.m. at Lassiter High School.
Here's what Anne had to say about Thursday's meeting at Walton:
Two observations were apparent from the meeting.
- First, our state and county officials are trying to be responsive to parent concern about the school budget crisis. They believe education is important. They were also candid that even though the economic climate is improving, they do not expect sufficient tax revenues to close the budget gap.
- Second, finding a solution to the school budget deficit is an extremely high priority to the audience members -- who expressed this quite clearly (and some quite insistently) to the panel members – as well as a willingness to look at alternative revenue options to resolve the budget shortfall.
- For instance, when asked whether the audience would support an increase in the property tax millage rate to help close the budget gap, an estimated 90% of the audience put their hands up.
- Other tax revenue options discussed were a potential education special local option tax (SPLOST) that could be voted upon at the county level, a change to the SPLOST law that would allow more flexibility in the use of SPLOST revenues, and a phased-in revision to the senior tax exemption -- starting the tax exemption at a more advanced age.
As a parent, I believe that the school budget crisis is a problem for all residents of Cobb County. First, it is critical for our children that they receive a high quality education -- when they will be competing nationally and internationally for jobs. Apart from that, our home values and quality of life are tied to the quality of our schools, and the strength of our county and state economies are dependent upon a highly educated workforce. I believe it is an issue on which we must all work TOGETHER to find a solution – our elected officials at the State and County levels, as well as parents and the community.