[UPDATE: the last paragraph of this article has been changed to correct an error we made in describing how “fair share” works]
The Cobb County School Board set their 2019 legislative priorities Thursday to be presented to lawmakers. Superintendent Chris Ragsdale echoed Marietta’s Superintendent Grant Rivera in his wish to see control over the school calendar remain at the local level. The controversial topic has been raised again by Senator Steve Gooch’s (R-Dahlonega) Senate Study Committee, which is currently exploring the possibility of a statewide start date after Labor Day.
They also want assessment flexibility and “to produce graduation rates that more accurately reflect schools’ academic progress.”
“Always the example I use is of Osborne High School. Their current graduation rate is in the sixties. When you take students that are present at Osborne High School for all four years of their high school career, their graduation rate is in the nineties. Quite the difference,” Ragsdale said at the work session.
Another major priority is “making fair share fair,” which has been a focus for years to no avail.
“I think it’s one of the most important, if not the most important legislative priority,” Board Member Scott Sweeney said at the evening meeting. “Cobb County School District, through its 5-mill share contribution, I think we’re north of 144 million dollars and Cobb County does not get any equalization funding at all from the state of Georgia. That 144 million dollars leaves this county. We get some measure of it back, we don’t know what measure of it we get back, but we sought for years to see that it’s capped at 100 million dollars, keeping 44 million dollars here within the county…that would easily help us add new teaching positions, as well as generate more raises for our teachers.”
[Corrected paragraph] Fair share is the requirement that at least 5 mills of property tax revenue be set aside as a basic local commitment to educating students in order to receive Quality Basic Education funding from the state. According to Ragsdale, since Cobb’s senior exemption allows residents 62 and older to not pay school taxes, the district’s share is closer to 6.5 mills. If Cobb’s fair share is capped at $100 million, it could eligible for more funding from the state.