Wednesday, September 29, 1999
BOE needs to put more money into real education

I have a few suggestions for our school board. Instead of wringing their hands and whining about the taxpayers of this county not responding to their demands for more money for the “children,” they need to seek solutions, not excuses. There are so many alternatives I can't imagine why none have been considered.

The most important would begin with populating the schools already built fairly and equitably. In other words, those that aren't at capacity need to be. Stop the perk of letting out-of-county students attend our schools because one of their parents work for the Fayette County system. Stop letting students go to another school because their parents want them to go to another school and will provide transportation. Do what the rest of us do when money is tight; do without the luxuries. Personally, I think a lot of students would like the idea of double sessions. Our leaders need to stop making that sound like it would be the end of the world because it just may be the best thing to happen here.

We have a problem in our society called “throwing money” at what is perceived as a problem. We have a school system that identified 71 percent of its students as HOPE scholars in 1998. What you do not know is that 10-15 percent of those students were identified as needing remedial classes upon entrance into the University System of Georgia, including [the University of Georgia] whose standards are very high. What that says to me is we are providing our students with averages needed to get that first year of college free. Once they are there, the percentages rise on those that lose it after the first year. You don't have to believe me — look it up on the Internet for yourselves.

What this means is that we need to put our dollars into education, not buildings, stadiums, high-tech equipment, etc. If that means double sessions or more “trailers,” then so be it. It is a lot better than constructing buildings we may not need in the future. The biggest selling homes in this community now are for empty nesters. What does that tell you?

Also, has anyone even thought about building a school complex devoted strictly to academics and sports merely being intramural? Then you could give the taxpayers a choice of either going to the school in their district or get on a waiting list to get into a new and innovative system for those children interested in academics and the arts. I think you would have a waiting list to get into such a school. The Catholic and Lutheran schools would not be filling up so fast if parents weren't interested in alternatives to what standard public education provides.

Peachtree City is 40 years old this year. Originally, it was planned for 80,000 residents, and then it was cut back to 40,000. Much of that growth has happened in the past 20 years. Our school system has never planned for total build-out. They are always crying run-away growth, knowing full well what the plan has been. Every time a bond referendum has been put before us, they promise “no more trailers.” It is like the little boy crying wolf once too often. When did everyone think this growth was going to occur?

The county leaders have had ample opportunity to direct what has happened into an orderly fashion. Instead, we keep seeing commercial growth going wild, which brings people here who want to live here, and no one can keep up. So we have special elections that cost you, the taxpayer, thousands of dollars, with the promise of “no more trailer,” and I can't remember a time when we haven't had trailers.

Those in favor of this 1 percent tax increase were counting on a low turnout to get it passed. They were counting on all of us doing it “for the children.” It makes it sound like our kids are so deprived. What a pity to use children as a weapon to defend this school board's inability to plan for the future. How sad.

To reiterate, the school board needs to seek solutions rather than offer excuses and blame the people who pay them for their inability to plan. We need to see some belt tightening as well as innovative strategies to deal with what we have and focus our attention on getting our children ready for college and the real world. Once the school board can offer reasonable solutions that do not insult our intelligence, I think the people of this county will work with them.

Jennifer Plisco
Peachtree City

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