Op-Ed: An Extra Penny Changes Children’s Lives and Economy

Heery International K-12 sector leader David Waggoner’s Op-Ed published in the Atlanta Business Chronicles explains the importance of Fulton County Schools SPLOST program - An extra penny changes children's lives and the economy                         

With November elections approaching, much of our attention is being directed towards the national political arena. Let’s not be distracted, though, from a critical Fulton County vote being held on May 24 – to reauthorize Fulton County Schools’ SPLOST program and continue funding the district’s capital improvement program. Be assured, your vote counts.

This penny sales tax has enabled the district to construct new state-of-the-art schools, provide major renovations to existing facilities, upgrade furniture and equipment, incorporate new technology, build new playgrounds, and more, impacting approximately 44,500 students.

Over the last 10 years there has been a movement toward the creation of 21st century learning environments that embrace evolving technology and accommodate a wide variety of learning styles. The good old days simply aren’t good enough anymore.

Larger, more flexible spaces, conference rooms, project labs, multi-disciplinary rooms and moveable walls are a few of the innovations that have resulted from ongoing exploration in the field of education. National research consistently links school facility upgrades to positive impacts on students and the community. Better schools lead to improved attendance and academic gains, teacher satisfaction and retention and reduced health issues.

Those of us who work on the design, construction and maintenance of K-12 schools across the country have physically seen the difference facilities, furniture and equipment can make in a student’s experience. Gone is the static stand and deliver/sit and learn educational paradigm. In its place is a more participative environment where students may be virtually interacting with diverse instructors and peers from across the globe or collaborating in small spaces designed to support small group learning.

Considering the importance our state has placed in student performance testing with the Georgia Milestones Assessment System, and the system’s dependence on technology infrastructure for administration, our schools need to provide a strong technology infrastructure for testing as well as learning.

Mind you, there’s also a direct economic impact. In 2015, Fulton County schools infused more than $400 million into locally owned and operated businesses through SPLOST-related projects. School improvements have been proven to increase residential property values. The caliber of facilities and instruction also plays a role in enticing corporations to relocate, further fueling the local economy.

District administrators have devoted ample time and resources to develop a master plan that prioritizes improvements through 2022, balancing the need for urgent facility improvements with the creation of contemporary, flexible learning environments. This plan includes the construction of three new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focused high schools, the replacement of four existing schools, 19 major renovations and 41 renovations.

Information and connectivity have become the bedrock of our personal and professional lives. In order to foster the next generation of problem solvers and leaders, we must provide them with the best, most flexible facilities and state-of-the-art equipment possible. As these students graduate and take their place in society, you’ll realize those pennies made a significant difference.