Those in attendance at the “Support Our Schools” rally outside Hickory Flat Elementary School voiced their concerns about statewide budget cuts, furlough days and the local politicians they say are failing to address these problems.
About 50 parents, teachers, students and school supporters in attendance held signs and waved to passing cars in an effort to raise awareness for the budget cuts they oppose.
Many shouted to people driving by to “honk if (they) support schools” and chanted “save our schools.”
Cherokee P.A.N.T.S., People Advocating the Need for Transparent funding of Schools, organized the rally and gathered to support the Cherokee Board of Education and oppose local legislators and Gov. Nathan Deal “who seek to continue to cut school funding,” according to a statement on the website.
Cherokee P.A.N.T.S. organizers wrote on the site that these cuts force the district to create larger classroom sizes, diminish learning opportunities and reduce time in specials, such as art and music.
Carol Taylor, Hickory Flat PTA president and Cherokee P.A.N.T.S. member, said having the rally on a furlough day was on purpose.
“It speaks volumes,” she said. “Our kids should be in school today but we’re out here locked outside the doors.”
Taylor said she had no idea how many people would come but she was pleased with the turnout.
Board Vice Chair Janet Read said she came to the event to support the teachers and parents.
“I agree with everything they stand for,” she said. “Never underestimate the power of a perturbed PTA mom.”
Anita Geoghagen, Dean Rusk Middle School teacher, said a lot of people are very passionate about issues regarding school funding.
“I don’t know if our legislators understand it’s hit a nerve in our community,” she said. “Everybody wants wonderful education for our children. We’ve got to come to an agreement about what’s best for them.”
Laurel Kountz, PTA president of Indian Knoll Elementary School, said her child’s school has the same overcrowding seen at Hickory Flat, despite the fact that it is a new school.
“I believe in schools and think we shouldn’t cut teachers’ pay,” she said.
According to a financial information sheet provided to board members at a work session Wednesday, $1.1 million in additional revenue must be identified, restored or cut from other areas of the budget to eliminate one furlough day. Since four are planned for the 2011-12 school year, that means $4.4 million would need to be restored or cut elsewhere to get teachers and students back into classrooms on these days.