Bring together virtually any dozen people and ask them what needs to be done to improve public education in Georgia and odds are you are going to get a dozen different answers. Improving schools is an important issue for many, and is a subject in which most of us feel some degree of investment.
And the truth is there is no one single solution that will dramatically improve schools overnight.
But there is one point of discussion on which many will agree – simply throwing money at the problem without concern for how efficiently it is spent isn’t the answer to the problem.
With that in mind, a state report issued last month showing Forsyth school officials to be exceptional stewards of public funds reiterates the fact that it is possible to have an exceptional school system without being atop the heap when it comes to per pupil spending.
The report showed the county last year spent about $7,786 per student. By comparison, neighboring Cherokee County, with a school system similar in size to Forsyth’s, spent some $8,700. At the top of the spending report was the Atlanta Public School system, with per pupil expenses of nearly $14,000.
Of 180 school systems in Georgia, only 16 spent less per pupil than did Forsyth, and they were all much smaller systems.
So what does it all mean? That when it comes to the relationship between academic achievement and expenditures, we’re getting a bargain.
The county has long been a leader in educational excellence for the state and region. To have that record of achievement while still keeping per pupil expenditures among the lowest in the state is a tribute to sound financial management, shrewd money management, efficient planning and strong leadership at all levels.
“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,” said school superintendent Buster Evans. Evans also noted that the report showed the system had one of the highest returns on investment in the nation.
The local system’s success stands as evidence that more money isn’t always the answer to the question of how to improve public schools. Sometimes, it’s how well the money is managed, and how high the academic goal is set.