Recently Mr. Scott Austensen from the state Department of Education came to talk with our board regarding Fayette County Board of Education finances. In that discussion, Mr. Austensen advised our board that 10 percent of budget or $14-16 million would be a good fund balance.
I agree with Mr. Austensen that it is necessary to build a better fund balance, but I do not believe it is achievable in one year without drastic and unnecessary reductions in our excellent Fayette County public schools.
In private business practice we normally implement a plan that will show improvement in the first year, the better in the second and goal performance in a later year.
What if we try for a plan that targets $5 million, then $10 million and reaching $15 million in year 3? This would allow our board to gather all necessary data, develop a plan and then cut our system with the care of a scalpel versus the chaos of a cleaver.
I do not argue that we need to keep every school open or that we do not need to carefully consider all of our processes or programs, but I do urge careful action.
Are we really going to close an outpost school such as Brooks to put money in the bank? Are we really going to reduce the power of our excellent Fayette County schools so that we have funds for the next round of state cuts?
We have not faced this situation before. In February 2009, FCBOE believed that it may be out of balance. It cut teacher and staff pay immediately. Actions like this that have proven the value of our leaders and professional staff. Some say we need drastic action because of SACS or some Georgia “watch list.” Mr. Austensen has told numerous Fayette residents that this is not true and we are “very far from there.”
The reality is that even with a declining enrollment we earn enough QBE funds partnered with our local dollars to maintain our excellent Fayette County public schools before the legislature takes earned funds for other purposes.
Our system’s performance is competitive nationally, while the cumulative efforts of Georgia’s public schools are regularly ranked in the bottom 10 out of 50 states.
Some of our Georgia public schools offer less than 170 days of instruction due to the state of Georgia’s failure to meet its obligation to fund public education. Now Fayette County is facing tough decisions the audacious Mr. Austensen counsels us to follow the pattern taken by other Georgia systems. I think they need to follow us.
The legislature will argue that K-12 is the largest item in the budget. That is true, but that is not the mandate of the state constitution or the QBE act. It is time to furlough state employees, except Public Safety, deplete funds for Fish and Game, state parks, attractions such as Go Fish Georgia, and any other non-essential program.
Fayette County has once again become home to economic growth in Georgia that I am sure can be attributed to the exceptionalness of Fayette reflected by its excellent and quality public schools.
Once our legislature funds our public schools and people like Mr. Austensen come and learn from our schools instead of lecturing them, then Georgia can truly become the economic power we want it to be.
Please contact our Fayette legislative delegation below and urge them to fully fund the QBE and maintain our schools.
Senator Chance: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Seay: email@example.com
Representative Fludd: firstname.lastname@example.org
Representative Ramsey: email@example.com
Representative Yates: firstname.lastname@example.org
Representative Abdul-Salaam: email@example.com
Representative Jordan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peachtree City, Ga.