[This is a Letter to the Editor by Melissa O’Brien]
There’s a referendum on this November’s ballot to extend the Cobb Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. This year, I am voting NO.
I have lived in Cobb County since 2008, and since that time, I have voted in favor of every County and Education SPLOST, but this time, it is different. While I am in full favor of funding education-related construction, education, and technology costs, I have little confidence in some of the current Cobb County School District Board members and its Superintendent.
In a year and a half full of COVID-related chaos, one would expect the 25th largest school district in the country to step up to the challenge. They did not. At a time when federal money is flying around for the take, our district chose to spend money on technology the district is not using, on medically unproven hand-washing machines and UV lights, and on retention bonuses for staff and teachers whom they failed to protect with simple COVID mitigation strategies like masks and ventilation.
While bonuses are deserved, so are measures to protect their health and safety. One only needs to look at the CARES Act grant application to see the district promised one thing when it came to COVID mitigation strategies, received federal tax dollars and then ignored the strategies used to receive the federal funding.
By failing to use these and other COVID-related funds to mitigate COVID and to ensure those who want to be educated in a public setting are accommodated, this Board and the Superintendent have given merit to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) proposed lawsuit against CCSD.
According to a letter sent to the district by SPLC, students with disabilities, including medically vulnerable, cannot attend Cobb schools in person without jeopardizing their health and safety.
Even the simplest of measures, facemasks, would have mitigated the spread of the delta COVID variant. In a 7-0-1 vote, with Superintendent Ragsdale abstaining, the Cobb/Douglas Board of Public Health voted that all public, private and charter schools in the county with K-12 students should mandate masks. The Superintendent not only chose to ignore the voices of public health experts, he then “cherry-picked” misinformation to justify his belligerent and unscientific policy.
When challenged by members of the Board to discuss these matters, four Board members voted to silence three others, essentially silencing more than 300,000 members of our community whom they represent. When the three asked for an independent audit of CCSD finances (which has never been done), the four Board members would not entertain a request to audit the $1.2 Billion annual budget of taxpayer dollars.
It is no secret that these three board members are Black, and the racist undertones of school board meetings has been deafening.
There is a reason the accreditation board Cognia chose to acknowledge a request for review of the district. There is also a reason several Republicans already are calling Cognia “biased” even before the report comes out. They are afraid of the mirror that will be put in front of their face.
The final straw came this week. In what seems to be a clear break from reality and science, Board Member David Banks sent an email to parents from his official account school board account stating that the “government is intentionally killing its citizens” and “do not take the shots if you have not already done so.”
This is nonsensical at best; horrifying at worst. With more than 700,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 and the majority of those now dying being unvaccinated, this is irresponsibility on a grand scale.
The CCSD Board and the Superintendent have billions of our tax dollars at their discretion, but the choices they have made of late have not been in the best interests of the citizens of Cobb County. Decisions have been politically biased and uninformed–without any peer-reviewed scientific fact.
I cannot give them more of my money to do this.
Keep in mind that they are asking you to vote early for this money. If it fails this time, they still have at least two more opportunities to vote as the current Ed-SPLOST expires in 2023.
This year, I say NO ACCOUNTABILITY, NO SPLOST.
Show me you can do better, CCSD.