The Liberty and Long county school systems are around the statewide average in terms of their financial efficiency, according to a new state rating system.
The Financial Efficiency Star Rating measures an individual school district’s per-pupil expenditure in relation to the academic achievements of its students. The rating is based on a three-year average of per-pupil spending associated with the district’s three-year College and Career Ready Performance Index average score.
Liberty County received 2.5 stars out of a possible five, while Long County received 3.5 stars.
For perspective, the average state rating is 2.9 stars. The Georgia Department of Education describes a five-star district as one that has strong academic outcomes and lower levels of expenditures in comparison with other districts.
Only one district in Georgia, Forsyth County, received five stars. Eight received 4.5 stars. The closest of those districts were Bryan County and Pierce County.
One district, Talbot County, received 0.5 star, and seven received one star.
This is the first release of such data, according to the state, and the ratings are based on the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years. Only districts are rated now, but schools will be rated next year.
The Liberty County School System spent $83.2 million with 9,755 students for a per-pupil expenditure of $8,525 in the 2012-13 school year. Those numbers in 2013-14 were $80.7 million with 9,752 students and an $8,274 per pupil. In 2014-15, the district spent $82.4 million and had 9,610 students for a $8,578 per pupil.
Liberty County’s three-year average per-pupil expenditure, $8,459, ranked in the 61st percentile statewide.
The district’s average CCRPI score over the three years was 74.
For the 2014-15 school year, Liberty County’s CCRPI was 72.2, while the statewide average was 75.5. That score earned the district a C in the first year the state assigned letter grades based on the scores.
Liberty County school officials did not comment on the rating; however, Chief Operating Officer Roger Reese prepared an executive summary for the Board of Education explaining the system. That summary largely restates the state’s explanation, but it does add the following observation about how the district can improve on its 2.5-star rating.
“If the LCSS wants to improve its (Financial Efficiency Star Rating, it) needs to improve its CCRPI scores at the current level of spending and/or increase its CCRPI scores and lower its spending to improve its FESR,” Reese wrote. “During the last few years, the LCSS has taken measures to lower its cost, which will improve its FESR as long as the CCRPI scores remain constant.”
During the board’s meeting Tuesday, the financial efficiency rating was not discussed.
The Long County School System spent $18.96 million with 2,748 students for a per-pupil expenditure of $6,901 in the 2012-13 school year. Those numbers in 2013-14 were nearly $21 million with 2,983 students and a $7,039 per-pupil expenditure. In 2014-15, the district spent $21.45 million and had 3,077 students for a per-pupil expenditure of $6,972.
Long County’s three-year average per-pupil expenditure, $6,971, ranked in the 4th percentile statewide.
Superintendent Dr. Robert Waters said during a Board of Education meeting Monday evening that the 4th percentile indicates that the school system is very low in terms of spending money.
“That means we’re poor,” he said. “We don’t have much money. That low spending — they need to come up with a different word than ‘low’ to describe our situation.”
The district’s average CCRPI score over the three years was 69.5. Waters pointed out that Long County missed getting a fourth star by just 0.5 point on CCRPI. The system’s per-pupil spending with a score of 70-79.9 would have earned it four stars.
“We are getting a mighty good bang for our buck,” he said. “I’m excited about that. We’ll have four stars next year, I believe.”
For the 2014-15 school year, Long County’s CCRPI was 67.2, while the statewide average was 75.5. That score earned the district a D.
“I’m very excited that our taxpayers can see that we are being responsible for the money that we receive from them in educating our kids,” Waters said, saying the credit goes to everyone in the district, including teachers and classroom support staff, administrative support staff, nutrition staff, bus drivers, mechanics and maintenance.
“And as excited as I am about it, I’m not satisfied,” he added. “We need to keep moving to the right.”
By “the right,” he was referring to a chart that shows the ranges of CCRPI scores and percentile statewide of per-pupil spending. The further right a district ends up on that chart, the more stars it receives on the financial efficiency rating.