AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)- As Gov. Deal signed off on a $50 million Cyber Innovation and Trainng Center in Augusta, he spoke of his enthusiasm for the area’s institutions of higher learning. He was less kind to the Richmond County School System.
“They have too many chronically failing schools,” Deal said. “In order to have the pipeline for workers and students who will be able to take advantage of this…if you want those to be local students, they have to have an underlying good education.”
Government data shows that the Richmond County school district’s performance is worse than 91 percent of the state’s school districts. Deal says that holds Richmond County back from attracting newcomers.
“People do notice,” he said. “The military takes note of that. And I would point out to you that as we had our meeting with them several weeks ago, they pointed out that they have more of the children of those who are working in their facility that go to Columbia County to go to school than go to Richmond.”
Richmond County Board of Education spokesman Kaden Jacobs says the evidence supporting that claim is anecdotal.
“I don’t always believe that claim that everybody that comes here just lives in Columbia County,” Jacobs said. “I know that for a fact not to be true.”
According to government data, the Columbia County school district performs better than 92 percent of Georgia’s school districts. But Jacobs says the region needs to be viewed holistically.
“I do know that folks do go to Columbia County, and that’s great. Columbia County is the suburban area for Richmond County,” Jacobs said. “We have a great urban core here, and in order for that to be sustainable, you have to have a good suburban area.”
More than a dozen Richmond County Schools would have been eligible to be taken over by the state had an amendment supported by Deal been passed last year that would have grouped low-scoring schools into an “opportunity school district,” or OSD.
“Obviously, we have a lot of room to grow here in Richmond County, but I’d like to remind the governor and others that OSD did fail by a wide margin,” Jacobs said. “So the chronically failing schools list dosen’t exist anymore.”
Deal is now supporting a new House bill that would also allow the state to take over schools.