Lawsuit appeal funds could be better used for education

Recently our school board announced that they will appeal the recent U.S. District Court decision requiring district voting for Fayette County. While I agree that it is better to have all five school board members accountable to the entire community, I have to question whether this is a good use of our scarce school tax dollars.

Just last year, our current school board members made the difficult decision to close four community schools, substantially eliminate first-grade parapros, maximize class size to state limits, and other painful reductions that were all part of the longstanding Fayette advantage.

When these decisions were made, we all supported our board even though many believe the results of these decisions will be felt in the coming years. Just one year later, we have full reserve and a projected surplus.

However, this recent decision by the board is more curious. Given the NAACP’s demand for fees of $850,000 coupled with the $300,000 spent by the Fayette County Commission, there is already over a million dollars invested in the question of district voting.

The FCBOE’s share of this cost is estimated to be about a $500,000 or 50 percent, given the facts as presented. This $500,000 represents approximately 15-20 first-grade parapros for our elementary schools for one year. Alternatively, these funds could pay for 8 – 10 teachers to reduce elementary school class sizes that have reached 30 for fourth and fifth grade in some of our schools for one year. There are other classroom uses for these funds that advance the education of pupils instead of politics.

The estimated $500,000 above represents what has already been spent and does not include an “aggressive appeal” as described by the board. The Fayette advantage of lower class sizes and additional K-1 resources has been a long time staple of who we are in Fayette County. There should be a solid plan to aggressively restore our programs before any other use of our school funds.

We all have had to make tough choices in our personal and business finances where two different priorities seem attractive but we cannot afford both. Prudence would suggest we fund the higher rational priority, which would be to fully fund the proven Fayette advantage that has benefited the entire community and is a point of pride for all of Fayette’s citizens.

Our community is divided over the decision to appeal the judge’s decision. Those who support an appeal should fund that effort and can do so legally. However, our school tax funds should not be used for an effort that only divides our community and does not support the education of Fayette’s children.

Neil Sullivan
Peachtree City, Ga.