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Forsyth BOE decides on 2017 legislative priorities

As 2016 comes to an end, Forsyth County Schools are looking ahead to the Georgia General Assembly’s 2017 legislative session, and state lawmakers will soon hear from the county’s Board of Education.

At a public meeting Thursday, the BOE identified and unanimously voted to approve three key legislative priorities for next year’s session, which will begin Jan. 9: personnel and benefits, supporting student growth and state and local partnerships.


Student growth


The board asked the seven-member state delegation to focus on early childhood education and growing and funding birth-through-age-five early learning development programs across the state.

“The reality is, in many systems throughout our state, children arrive at kindergarten with no letter and no number recognition,” Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden said. “It puts those teachers and those schools in a very challenging situation. We’re trying to get all children to read at grade level by the end of grade three, which everyone understands if that’s the case, most of those kids move on to graduate high school, and those that don’t are potential dropouts.

While that may be more vital to districts with high poverty rates, board members also identified how to support student growth within Forsyth.

“FCS supports statewide initiatives to promote the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs on our youth, and also to educate and assist students and families in the area of mental health and suicide awareness,” they said.


Personnel and benefits


Board members also requested “that the state continues to work in partnership with the district to improve staff pay and health benefits” and said the school system “supports the creation of a statewide initiative to identify and recruit talented candidates into teacher and education leadership preparation programs.”


State and local partnerships


The final priority will focus on how the county will work with the state to promote better education, while also remaining autonomous as a local board.

“That goes back to the constitutional authority,” said Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for the district. “You do a lot of advocacy at the [Georgia School Boards Association] level and then also on your own with the state delegation about you having local control over the revenue sources, about the flexibility for increased student achievement and operational effectiveness.”

Caracciolo also said FCS relies heavily on capital outlay, and the school system will request that the outlay “is funded at 100 percent level and that the state tax base does not become further eroded with exemptions from the sales and use of tax, income tax and other state taxes.”

“It’s very important for us,” she said, “for funding.”