There's been a tremendous shift in the past couple of years in the way different levels of government interact, particularly local entities with the state.
It's a reality of lean budget times. Only a few years ago, when local officials met with lawmakers before the start of the annual legislative session, much of their time was spent in requests for money.
Not any more. That couldn't have been better illustrated than in the recent meeting between school board members and the Columbia County legislative delegation.
Trustees aren't asking for more money. They know it isn't available. Instead, they want more control over how the money they already have can be spent - or, at least, to have more of a say in how cuts in existing funding are handled.
It's a critical issue. The Columbia County school system has continued to grow in the number of students, but is serving them with fewer teachers.
We're not even talking about slowing the growth of increase in educators; there are fewer teaching jobs in the county now than two years ago, even as the system has taken on nearly 1,000 more students.
This is possible only with the flexibility granted by the state board of education, which this year removed class-size limitations. That's allowed Columbia County and other growing systems to serve more students with fewer teachers.
It's that kind of flexibility that board members sought when meeting with state Sen. Bill Jackson and state Reps. Ben Harbin and Lee Anderson.
That includes continuing to allow individual systems to set their own calendars and allowing more variety in diplomas, including a track with more vocational offerings.
The good news for lawmakers, who head back into session this week, is that such requests don't cost another dime from the state. And with continued high achievement levels from Columbia County schools, there's no reason to believe the system can't accountably handle the additional autonomy.
There is little doubt that in the current economic climate, school systems can't count on any extra money coming from the state. They should at least be able to count on more leeway in how those leaner dollars are spent.
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