Jack Bernard, a retired SVP with a large national healthcare firm, has worked extensively with hospitals across the nation regarding cost containment and insurance. He was also the first Director of Health Planning for Georgia.

There’s been a lot in the news recently about Fayette County schools asking for more funding. I’m a numbers guy who has been in planning and budgeting on the local and state level, as well as with corporations. A fiscal conservative, I don’t like to see money wasted.
As a relatively new resident who has been here less than five years, moving from a rural county with very poor public education scores, I wanted to find out the truth in my new home county. In summary, here is what I found:
Fayette County School District has some of the best rankings in the state, ranked 7th out of the 159 county school districts and the dozens of city districts.
Expenditures are clearly in line with the other top state school districts.
Here’s the details, using “Niche.com” 2018 figures. Underlying source material for this site is gleaned from US DOE data, standardized test scores, and 60 million reviews/survey responses.
• SAT/ACT: Average Fayette test scores were 1170/28 which was as good as the best school district in the state, Buford. Forsyth and Oconee, the second and third best districts, had scores of 1240/28 and 1210/28. In other words, based on objective tests, our students are doing very well.
• Percent of funds spent on direct instruction: Fayette spends 66 percent of its budget on direct instruction. Of the top three, only Forsythe spends more (68%) on direct instruction. In other words, our tax money is being spent appropriately for directly teaching our kids rather than being spent on overhead.
• Dollars spent per student: We spend $10,606 per student, less than Buford ($13,138) but slightly higher than Forsyth and Oconee ($9,425, $9824). Our expenditures per student, therefore, appear to be in line with other top districts.
• Average teacher salary: average teacher salaries range from $59,549 (Buford) to $55,710 in Oconee. We’re in the middle at $58,823.
I confirmed the above through a second source, “School.digger.com” (2018), which also rated Fayette as the 7th best district in the state, indicating that its performance was better than 96.3 percent of the other districts in Georgia.
So, what have we learned? We clearly have one of the top school districts in the state, with very high student scores on standardized tests. Our overhead is in line with other top districts, as are our expenditures per student.
The average income in the state is around $50,000, which includes earning of many people with under a college level education. Therefore, it is obvious that our well-educated Georgia public school teachers are all underpaid, including ours and other high performing districts.
As the former Chair of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia’s Tax Committee, I can state with 100 percent certainty that the commercial and industrial sectors pay a disproportionate amount of local property taxes. Fayette County must remain a top county educationally to attract small business and industry. Having taken Vinson Institute courses on this topic, education is a top criterion for business relocation. It’s clear that a reasonable Fayette County school tax increase is warranted to continue to make progress.