Each year they secure a waiver from the state allowing the district to exceed state class size maximums. Reducing teachers, increasing class sizes and reducing services have helped balance budgets. And lately, the need to change the instructional delivery model for most high schools has been discussed.
The board has even discussed changing from (SACS) Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to a lesser-recognized agency within the state that supports Clayton County and a portion of Atlanta Public Schools.
It is a clear get-what-you-pay-for-concept. The parent company for SACS is AdvancEd, serving 37 of the 50 states, as well as schools and school districts all over the world.
Cobb children deserve to be recognized for the quality of education they receive in Cobb County. The reputation of SACS plays a vital role when applying for college and university admissions.
There are a variety of reasons why Cobb has this revenue dilemma while attempting to serve 109,806 students.
The tax revenue in Cobb is being reduced in a variety of ways different from many other counties across our state. First, the local 5-mill adjustment subtracts more than $131 million from earned tax revenue this year alone, distributing these funds across the state to other less fortunate school districts.
Second, like other school districts, Cobb receives education funding from the state. But, state austerity cuts now amount to approximately $75 million a year for Cobb Schools.
Third, Cobb’s tax-paying citizens aren’t getting any younger. Citizens age 62 and older are exempt from all school taxes regardless of income. This reduction in potential revenues amounts to more than $63 million each year.
These three issues alone amount to a yearly loss in school district revenue of more than $270 million dollars. If you choose to magnify this over the previous five years, it is an estimated $1 billion of lost revenue that truly belongs in Cobb County and for Cobb County Schools. I use the five year estimate to illustrate how these dollars add up in a short time — but remember, some of these issues have been in existence for more than 20 years.
So it’s no wonder that every year the Cobb County School Board faces the very difficult discussions of reducing teachers, increasing class size and the loss of programs and services. Most observers believe there appears to be no end in sight.
We need a game-saving home run that will help stabilize the decline in school revenue and the quality of education we expect our 109,806 children to receive.
We need a big, big economic development boost — one that will bring needed investment into our county, as well as jobs.
The Braves’ investment in a new stadium in Cobb is a home run in the upper deck for education. It will result in: a $672 million stadium, $400 million mixed-use development, $235 million in construction payrolls, and a permanent operational payroll of $35 million. And a prediction from economist Alan Wexler, CEO of Data Bank, Inc., that property values around the new stadium could double.
Doubling means improved revenue for our schools. Continuing to use the term “doubling” is exactly what Cobb County needs, especially the Cobb County School District. I have chosen to focus on what the Braves in Cobb County can do for the school district.
It is somewhat common for tax revenue received in one location to be distributed around the state for the benefit of all. It is just not common for that redistribution to come back to Cobb County.
With the potential of a big new investment in our county, we finally have an opportunity to see additional revenue coming our way.
Sometimes leaders take short-term, even personal, risks for the good of the team and community. When you think about it, that’s what leaders are supposed to do: Lead, not follow.
For the benefit of the 109,806 children attending Cobb schools, we owe thanks to the Cobb citizens and community leaders who have been involved in bringing the Braves to Cobb County.
They probably didn’t know it when they were at the plate, but they just happened to hit it out of the park — for our kids.
James Wilson of Marietta is a retired superintendent of the Cobb and Fulton County school districts.