Poor vs. wealthy school districts

The community colleges topic doesn’t seem to be generating that much interest, so it’s time to try something else.

James Salzer wrote that the money used to help poor school systems provide services comparable to wealthier districts was cut by 23 percent.

Lawmakers slashed $112 million from the equalization fund as they tried to balance the budget. The fund now has about $436 million and the money is allocated to about 135 of the state’s 180 districts.

School districts that depend on this money say they are cutting positions and increasing class sizes. Officials in these systems say they were already hurting because of the economy and these cuts worsen the problem.

The cuts also may be used in a lawsuit over the way Georgia funds education.

A group of mostly rural school systems sued Georgia in 2004 claiming that the state was violating the Georgia Constitution by not spending enough money to provide an adequate education. The coalition withdrew the lawsuit in 2008 after it was assigned to a new judge, but they have said they plan to file again.

What do you think of the state’s decision to cut the equalization fund? What can be done to even the playing field for students in poor districts?

13 comments Add your comment

Joy in Teaching

June 1st, 2009
2:51 pm

What could be done? We could drop this governor into a vast pit somewhere and elect just about ANYONE ELSE.

Since Perdue was elected, he’s made drastic cuts into education through the use of “austerity cuts.” While those cuts were needed when he first came into office in 2003, he’s continued to make them even as the state accumulated a huge surplus in the reserve fund. What he is basically doing is shifting the funding from the state to the counties, many of which do not have the tax base to absorb the nearly 2 billion that he’s slashed from the education budget.

I’ve always found it interesting how a wealthier county like Gwinett manages to get more money from the equalization fund than do vastly poorer counties such as Oglethorpe or Madison. I never understood why that consortium dropped that lawsuit, but here is more ammo for them when they do decide to pick it back up again.

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catlady

June 1st, 2009
4:25 pm

Austerity cuts=educational signing statements

You tell a state’s priorities by what it doesn’t spend its money on.

I live in one of the poor counties that nonetheless chooses to slight the kids rather than moving up the millage rates. As long as a system does not tax its citizens the max, they should get no equalization money. Once they tax at 20 mils, THEN the state should chip in to equalize.

Classroom Teacher

June 1st, 2009
6:31 pm

Same here Catlady. Unytil these “poor” counties raise their millage rates they really shouldn’t expect the rest of the state to pay for their childs education now can they?

catlady

June 1st, 2009
8:36 pm

It is not like I like to pay taxes. It is just a question of fairness to me. If Dekalb taxes at the max, why should they chip in to pay my county’s educational expenses, who taxes at 15 mils? I understand that their one acre is valued at higher than one in my county. However, we should do for ourselves (personal responsibility) before we take “welfare” from other counties. My county, which is overwhelmingly Republican, should understand that.

AP teacher

June 1st, 2009
10:30 pm

I wonder what % of the population in Dekalb County owns property to pay property taxes on. I know in my county less than 50% of the population owns property that can be taxed. I own property, I have taught for 25 years and both my children came through the public school system so I have no problem paying my school taxes at twenty mils. Even at 20 mils, my county still needs that help from the state. If the metro counties want their money to stay in their counties, then they should not be upset when the rest of us in Georgia decide that we want our money to only help build roads in our counties, our tax money only used to replace our old sewage systems and our money only to be spend on our hospitals. Educated chilren benefit the entire state not just specific counties.

Ernest

June 1st, 2009
11:24 pm

Excellent point, Catlady! You bring up the argument that ‘wealthy’ counties such as DeKalb has been saying for years.

At the same time, we probably need to look at consolidating school districts, where logistically possible. It is easy for me to sit in the metro area and say two south Georgia counties should merge however you could be talking trips of 50 miles or more each way to get to school.

Lady Luck

June 1st, 2009
11:25 pm

Too many of the rural counties have “private school men” who actually sit on the PUBLIC school boards which is their right to do. But, their kids and grandkids go to the local private academies. This is legal, but one of their main goals (if not their only goal) is simply to keep the property taxes as low as possible. It is not the responsibility of the large systems to carry the small systems. After all, the small systems only have a few students to educate. There’s a lot of racial considerations involved. I hate to say this, but it is true, and the truth often hurts. For you teachers (including myself) who want to sound off, go to http://www.georgiateachersspeakout.wordpress.com, and let your frustrations and concerns be heard!

Joy in Teaching

June 3rd, 2009
8:19 am

It’s easy to criticize poorer counties by saying, “oh, they just need to raise their millage rate so they can pay for their own schools.” But the reality is, if they did raise the millage rate, the majority of the land owners (primarily farmers) wouldn’t be able to afford to pay the higher taxes unless they raised the price of eggs, peanuts, milk, beef, pulp paper, etc. And even then, people in more densely populated richer counties would end up paying more in higher grocery prices.

It seems to me, if you really want to get right down to it, that these “richer” counties are only richer because they have a more dense population base. They don’t have the acrage available to be self sustaining when it comes to feeding themselves and must rely on “poorer counties” to help them do that. Consequently, poor counties need some of the tax dollars generated by richer counties in order to help educate their children. Seems like a win-win situation to me.

Ok…enough of this: time for me to get out to the garden before it gets too hot.

ShooShee

June 3rd, 2009
9:37 pm

Uh, AP teacher, all personal property is taxed. So is business property. That is true whether you own it or rent it. If you rent, the landowner pays property tax and reimburses him/herself through your rent. So – what kind of AP class do you teach?

No – you cannot tax your own district at a really low millage rate and then expect others – who pay the maximum rate – to chip in to pay for your schools. It’s just not nice. And the formulas are ridiculous. How is it that DeKalb, Fulton and Cobb end up subsidizing Gwinnett’s schools?

ShooShee

June 3rd, 2009
10:52 pm

I’m from Ohio. Lots of farms there. We don’t make the cities pay taxes for the rural districts. And the rural schools actually provide a pretty decent education. Next excuse —

jim d

June 4th, 2009
5:22 pm

HORSE FEATHERS!!!

When the rural districts tax at the same level as the more urban areas–then I’ll shed a tear for them.

AP teacher

June 4th, 2009
9:30 pm

ShooShee, you sound so knowledgeable about education What do you do? You are on every blog discussing education issues. What is your experience in education? Are you involved in an actual school or are you one of those annoying people who assumes they know everything about everything. I do understand that all personal property is taxed. However, in a small rural county with high poverty, you cant charge Atlanta rates because people cant pay. People that rent the property can raise the rent in order to cover the higher property taxes but then people who have to rent can no longer afford rental rates. You have a no win situation in poor counties. Our board members are caught between a rock and a hard place. Our board members are all retired principals and teachers with no private school man in the bunch. I am glad to know that you arent from Georgia. I was really worried about someone from Georgia being so rude. I am a nationally board certified AP US history teacher with a M.ED and a ED.S in history education. I have been teaching for 25 years. Our county is so poor that all students receive free lunch. However, our school has always made AYP, we have students qualify for GHP every year, we have been the state literary winner, winner of the Governors Cup for SAT scores, College Board Award for the number of minority students passing AP exams with 3 or higher. No excuses —-just pride that our students who have very little can accomplish so much.