The Forsyth County school system has been efficient with its money.
That’s how the district’s financial director, Dan Jones, described how the system has managed to fund quality education while spending less per student than districts similar in size.
“When you look at the results, we’re obviously being very efficient,” Jones said. “We’re getting a good return on our investment.”
The comparison between school systems is an annual report released by the state Board of Education. Last year, the local system spent about $7,786 per student.
Neighboring Cherokee County, the next largest district to Forsyth, spent about $8,700 per student. Chatham County, on the coast, spent nearly $9,600 per student.
About 16 of the state’s 180 school systems spent less per student, but none of those districts are nearly as large as Forsyth.
Atlanta Public Schools spent by far the most per student, at nearly $14,000.
By comparison, however, Atlanta’s school system gets about $13,500 per student in state, federal and local revenue. Forsyth’s funding is about $7,786.
Forsyth County School Superintendent Buster Evans said it’s more than just spending less, it’s also balancing that with the expectations of rising graduation rates and test scores.
But the state’s data “continues to support other data that show that the Forsyth County school system has among the highest returns on investment of any school system in the nation,” Evans said. “It really is about a great base of teaching and support personnel who work in one of America’s greatest counties.
“We are all honored and privileged to be a part of this community that makes learning a priority at a cost we can afford.”
The local school system receives about 6 percent of its funding from the federal government, which largely doles out money based on percentage of low-income students. Only Buford City Schools gets a smaller percentage.
Nearly half, or about 48 percent, of Forsyth’s funding comes from local dollars.
More money, however, doesn’t lead to a better education, Jones said.
“If that was true, then the systems who have more money would be higher ranked in test scores and graduation rates. But they’re not,” he said.
The annual school comparison is beneficial for several reasons, Jones added.
“It lets us look at the categories and see if we’re doing something that other systems may not that might cause us to be out of line,” he said.
Several years ago, the comparison showed Forsyth was spending more on transportation than other districts. Jones said the county used the information to cut back.
In 2002, Forsyth was spending about $400 to transport one student to and from school for a year. Now, with nearly twice as many students, the system is spending less than $341 per student.
Evans said he is “pleased that we are demonstrating a high level of efficiency.”
“More importantly, it pleases me that despite being on the lower end of the expenditure per [student] ranking, our student achievement levels remain among the highest in Georgia,” he said.
“The real tribute is due to our teachers and building level personnel who have continued to reach to new heights of achievement despite continued cutbacks in the resources to support their work.”