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Henry County Board of Education Shares 2024 Legislative Priorities with Local and State Officials

HENRY COUNTY, GA – Around two dozen dignitaries representing the Georgia General Assembly, city and county government, and local industry joined the Henry County Board of Education at Luella High School on Nov. 10 for its annual Legislative Breakfast and presentation of its 2024 Legislative Priorities.

The session presented Henry County Schools (HCS) Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis with a platform to showcase the board’s strategic vision for bolstering mental health, wellness, and general support systems for students, as well as school security and education workforce initiatives.

“This was a special moment,” said Superintendent Davis. “For the district to have every level of civic leadership in one room focused on improving public education for today’s youth is truly significant. It is this type of engagement that will facilitate our continued pursuit of exceptional.”

Davis highlighted the significance of city, county, and state partnerships in crafting solutions aligned with the district’s mission and vision. The session further provided an opportunity for HCS to lay the groundwork for policies lawmakers should consider in representing the county’s public education objectives at the upcoming legislative session beginning Jan. 8.

The superintendent’s report detailed key funding areas and associated costs. Funding for student wellness and support structures showed a slight increase in state funding from $9.4 million, or $219.32 per student, in the 2023 fiscal year to $10 million, or $233.40 per student, in the 2024 fiscal year.

Henry County Schools’ costs for providing these types of wellness and support programs in the 2024 fiscal year were $21.8 million ($508.70 per student), increasing over the 2023 costs of $18.4 million ($428.26 per student). Notably, the district’s costs were approximately two times the funding received in both years.

State transportation funding versus local projected expenditures for the 2024 fiscal year was $2.3 million ($54.49 per student) versus the cost of $25.2 million ($585.79 per student), respectively. The need for improved state funding for student support and student transportation was a key topic of discussion.

Meanwhile, there is no ongoing state funding for school safety and security or a district’s technology infrastructure.

HCS has annual ongoing safety and security costs of $3.6 million ($83.41 per student) for the 2024 fiscal year, which is fully funded by locally collected tax dollars.

Technology investments in 2023 were $14.5 million ($336.12 per student) also completely locally funded through a combination of E-SPLOST revenue and locally generated funds.

The presentation emphasized the district’s commitment to solutions-oriented discussions and investments to bridge the gap in support for mental health, safety and security, and the education workforce as embodied within four main priorities:

Priority One: Support Student and Staff Wellness

  • Revise the (Quality Basic Education) QBE allotment formula to fund mental health and wellness support
  • Provide incentives that inspire partnerships with local healthcare providers for school-based mental health services

Priority Two: Ensure Supportive, Safe, and Secure Learning Environments

  • Revise the QBE allotment to fund school resource officer, crossing guard, and other school safety personnel roles
  • Increase funding to acquire, support, and sustain enhanced technology, including weapons detection systems and structural reinforcements, and to monitor and address ransomware and other potential safety threats effectively

Priority Three: Advance Educator Compensation and Promote Teacher Pipeline Development

  • Improve the QBE allotment to enable competitive teacher and support staff compensation
  • Increase the state’s contribution within the bus driver funding formula, enhance compensation, and ensure a competitive retirement incentive
  • Introduce flexible return-to-work models by lowering the 30-year retirement requirement to a 25-year minimum
  • Provide incentives for teacher pipeline development initiatives and create an apprentice certificate for aspiring educators

Priority Four: Ensure Learning Opportunities for Students and Support for Families

  • Expand the dual enrollment program by adding nursing, public safety, educator preparation, and other courses relevant to critical workforce fields
  • Promote local control and ensure school choice proposals include comparable accountability, enrollment requirements, and Code of Conduct processes

Collaborations with state, county, and city officials are consistent with the district’s community-inclusive approach to creating exceptional opportunities that lead to success for all students in a global society.

“Having two dozen dignitaries take time from their busy schedules to participate in our Legislative Breakfast was a testament to how much our community cares about our young people,” said Board Chair Annette Edwards (Dist. 2). “We value this opportunity to strengthen partnerships that may allow them to advocate on our behalf to produce even more exceptional results in Henry County Schools.”

“As Chair of the Henry County Board of Commissioners, I emphasize the significance of events like the Legislative Breakfast in fostering collaboration between the County Government, Board of Education, and our state delegation,” said Board of Commissioners Chair Carlotta Harrell. “Through these partnerships, we are ensuring not only student well-being but well-being of the entire community. I commend the efforts of our representatives and leaders for their dedication to working together, addressing crucial areas such as school safety, mental health and wellness, technology, and workforce development for the benefit of Henry County.”

The dignitaries also visited the LHS art gallery to view students’ accomplishments in the fine arts and toured several classrooms where they learned about achievements in STEM, Advanced Placement courses, the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program, and more.

“The Henry County Schools Legislative Breakfast, under the guidance of Mary Elizabeth Davis, offered a comprehensive and engaging platform for receiving updates and gaining insights into the legislative priorities of Henry County Schools,” said Southern Crescent Technical College President Dr. Irvin Clark. “Collaboration among school district officials, legislative leaders, and community or business partners is essential to secure the ongoing success of Henry County. Furthermore, the occasion facilitated meaningful interactions with students and teachers, coupled with informative tours of the school’s facilities.”

With the district’s overarching belief that all students can achieve at high levels, the support of state and local leaders is instrumental in ensuring the resources are in place to facilitate student success and safeguard and advance public education in Henry County.

About Henry County Schools

Henry County Schools (HCS) is the eighth-largest school district in Georgia, consisting of 52 schools, including two academies, located about 20 minutes south of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Over the past 20 years, our community has grown in population from 113,000 residents to over 244,000 residents. Since 1999, student enrollment has grown from 21,000 students to 43,000 students, and our number of employees has grown from 3,000 to 6,000.

HCS is “In Pursuit of Exceptional,” taking action to advance opportunities, access, and outcomes so that every student in our school district has Exceptional Support, Exceptional Access, and an Exceptional Future. In 2020, our Board of Education adopted our 2021-2026 Community-Inspired Strategic Plan and laid out a clear vision and mission for Henry County Schools. Our vision is to ensure a high-quality, world-class education for every student, and our mission is to empower all students with exceptional opportunities and access that lead to success in a global society.