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School board legislative priorities set
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Rockdale County Board of Education approved a list of priorities to present to area legislators that included opposition to school choice vouchers and advocated the implementation of Common Core standards.

Board members approved the list during its Nov. 21 regular meeting. The four-prong list, which included a few sub lists, will go before lawmakers during a legislative breakfast meeting Dec. 10.

Superintendent Richard Autry elaborated on a few points from the legislative list during the board's work session earlier this month.

The list included opposition to school choice vouchers and tax credits, which are used by parents to help pay for sending their children to private schools. The list RCPS approved said that the funds for school vouchers and tax credits would take away funding to public education.

"Al though there is already a tax credit on the books, it does not mean we support that tax credit," Autry said. "And we certainly do not want that tax credit to be increased to support private education."

Autry also quoted $64.2 million of state funds that RCPS no longer receives because of "austerity reductions," since fiscal year 2003.

"So, again, cease those reductions and reinstate our funding," Autry said.
In addition, the legislative list opposed control of the school system that is not the school board, specifically in the area of using state funds and making decisions.

Autry said, "we do not want any authority to usurp that control."

He also advocated for the Georgia Department of Education to provide standardized teacher evaluations that is "a fair and equitable system."

"We don't need different assessments in every different district for every different county," Autry said. "We you start talking about merit pay, when you start talking about hiring and firing, when you start talking about certification, it has to be standardized and comparable and equal and equitable to every teacher across the state of Georgia or else it's not going to be a fair system and you're going to see some major problems with teacher evaluation."

Besides all the opposition, Autry said the school system supported Common Core, which is a nationally contested curriculum that seeks to make sure students across the nation are being taught the same standards.

"I want us to compare ourselves to the state of Georgia, but I also want to be able to compare ourselves with student performance from other students from in states," Autry said.

The common sentiment from teachers, according to Autry, is that they know what to teach, but do not want to see the curriculum change so often.

"That requires more training. That requires different resources," Autry said. "It's just unfair to our students not to have a consistent way to deliver instruction and a consistent thread of instructional standards."

Autry specifically pointed to the curriculum change in math over the past three years.

Autry said he had ongoing talks with legislators about the priorities, but next month's breakfast was a more formal way to explain how the specific legislation would affect RCPS. He added that the list was similar to past years' legislative lists.

Rockdale County director of community relations Cindy Ball said the invited legislators at next month's legislative meeting would be those Rockdale County representatives on the state and federal levels.