By Alex Estroff
High poverty rates and poor education systems typically go hand-in-hand in communities across America. For many years, Clarke County was no exception to that generality. However, recent data suggest that while many students still come from low-income families, the future is looking brighter for local public schools.
Source: GA Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (View interactive version here)
This map demonstrates that at least half of all students in most counties in Georgia are economically disadvantaged. This statistic is measured by the number of students who are eligible for free or reduced price school lunches. At 77 percent, Clarke County has one of the highest rates in northern Georgia. This rate actually pales in comparison to other counties, such as the fifteen counties in which every student is economically disadvantaged.The concentration of bright red counties in southern Georgia indicates poverty levels across the state is somewhat dependent on geography.
Source: Digest of Education Statistics (View interactive version here)
Despite the high level of low-income families, Clarke County is actually spending more money on its students than both the rest of the state and the rest of the country. In fact, while Georgia’s expenditures per student decreased each year from 2010-2013, Clarke County’s increased each year. Most of these funds go to direct instruction but they are also used for support services, such as social work and counseling, and general operations costs. A possible result of this increased spending in recent years is the growth in graduation rates:
Source: Georgia Department of Education (View interactive version here)
Over the course of a decade and a half, Clarke County high school graduation rates have gone up drastically. In 2015, Clarke County saw a 30 percent increase in graduation from its 2002 level (the earliest year with available data) and is now only two percent behind the national rate of 82.3. Georgia’s rate as a whole grew constantly over this time period, indicating that many counties across the state have also benefitted from recent education efforts.