Over a dozen individuals showed up for a Walker County Democrats meeting July 27 to discuss the state of public education in their county and across the state.
The meeting was called and led by David Boyle, head of the county's Democratic Party. Boyle said he was trying to get the party up and running again in the county, after several years without an active committee.
"I kept running into liberal-minded people in the grocery store who would tell me they don't have a place to talk about the issues," he said during the meeting.
The meeting included a panel of four local educators to address the group's concerns regarding the county's education system. Among the group's chief concerns are how the county can better serve underprivileged students and those with special needs, whom they fear are falling by the wayside. The panel featured Austin Cope, a science teacher at Chattanooga Valley Elementary, Jason Alspaugh, a history teacher at Ridgeland High School, David Cofield, a retired teacher from LaFayette, and Jim Barrett, president of the Walker County Association of Educators.
According to Niche.com, an aggregator for school and education data, more than 70 percent of Walker County Schools' students are on free or reduced lunch. And AdvancED, an international nonprofit that works to improve schools and school districts, found that nearly 15 percent of the school population was comprised of students with disabilities when the group studied the district in 2016.
The panel at the meeting also discussed the national trend toward for-profit charter schools, and while there are no current plans in Walker County for a charter school, the focus on such schools is in the national dialogue. Panelists said often, such schools tend to look past at-risk and impoverished students, and they were concerned that trend in education to focus on high-achieving and wealthy students could filter into public schools locally.
"Rural Georgians are not given the best opportunities," Boyle said. "They're just as bright as any other student, and a good, healthy public education system is important for our community and state."
While Boyle said the Walker County Democratic Party still has a ways to go before fielding a candidate for local office, he wanted to see like-minded citizens engage the school board and make their concerns clear.
The group typically holds meetings the fourth Thursday of every month at 6 p.m., but their next meeting is Thursday, Aug. 17 at Dari Dip in LaFayette.
For more information about how to get involved, contact David Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email Shane Foley at email@example.com.