0

What's your part in all this? - Denese Rodgers

Back when we all met the challenge of the evacuee influx from Katrina, one of the issues that we faced was the children entering our school system.

As I recall, we placed more than a hundred new kids into our schools, and for all intents and purposes, it went smoothly.

At that time, we sort of loosely built a communication vehicle for helping with clothes, school supplies, etc. Now, we are at another critical point for Henry County school children.

We have some 41,000 children in our care, and all the money needed to ensure that they get the quality education they deserve, is just not there.

According to the group, Connected to Public Policy, "the governor's amended FY10 budget proposes many new reductions that are sustained in the FY11 budget … It is difficult to calculate how deep the proposed amended FY10 budget cuts actually are, since agencies were directed in July to take a portion of these cuts that ranged from 3 to 10 percent.

"In the governor's budget address, [Gov. Sonny] Perdue said the average reduction for state agencies is 12 percent. The Department of Education (DOE) was reduced (3 percent) while some agencies were reduced 100 percent … Meanwhile, here are some proposed items: Reduce funding for the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula funds to local school systems by $527 million, and reduce funding for school nurses by $1.164 million in FY10, and by an additional $436,500 in FY11."

So, step up to the plate, ya'll. I have agencies and organizations calling all the time wanting to know where to plug in. Plug into public education. We've lobbied a couple of times in the past to get SPLOST funding to build schools.

Now, let's make it a bit more grassroots. Look for the school in your area, near your home or office. If you're a business, check out the Partners In Education program, and see what you can contribute.

Mentors are needed in every school, but right now, if you are interested in being a mentor, you will have to take the lead and contact the school yourself. Contact me if you need training on the topic, or if you just want to know what all is involved in mentoring.

I'll talk to two, twenty, or two hundred.

If you're a charity or social organization, pick a school and help with school supplies (or clothing: Socks, T-shirts, coats, or sports equipment). How about medical supplies? You can bet that if the funding for nurses is slashed, they're going to need bandages, hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls, etc. …

We conducted a Meet And Greet on Friday of last week, so the school counselors and school social workers could meet with folks who are willing and able. But, of course, we need more.

Simply because state funds are gone, our responsibility to educate these kids does not go with them.

If you're a long-term, strategic thinker like me, think of it in terms of the value of an educated workforce. We are doing lots of work by way of a Unified Economic Development Plan for Henry County.

Wouldn't you think a basic building block of that notion would be a quality education for those who will eventually be the employees? I'm just sayin'…

Denese Rodgers is executive director of Connecting Henry, a social-services, networking, community organization in Henry County.