Live blogging: Georgia’s new school funding formula: “We are not going to reach for excellence”

I am at the first all-day meeting of the state’s new education finance review committee created by Gov. Nathan Deal and the Legislature — it is the sixth such blue ribbon committee since the state adopted the Quality Basic Education Funding Act in 1985.

The most recent committee labored four years and came up with district contracts for flexibility rather than a revised funding formula.

None of the other committees yielded any results, either. Speaking now is state House budget staff director John Brown, who leaves the Legislature after 25 years to join the Regents tomorrow. So, Brown is speaking with a remarkable degree of candor to the 20-member committee about the earlier failed efforts and the state of education in Georgia.

Brown blamed the failures of the other funding review committees on two factors: Governors who wanted  only recommendations that were “revenue neutral,” and overly ambitious committee recommendations that were more “wish lists.”

And this may be the most candid comment of all that Brown made on the committee’s purpose:

“We are not going to come up with a formula that reaches  for excellence. We are not putting an orchestra in every school. We are not going to be up there. We are going to create a formula so that every school system has enough money to get the basic job done.”

He said the most recent failed funding committee focused too much on best practices and attempted to base the formula on great practices it found in a few systems. Brown said that was a mistake.

“People like me have to have a funding formula,” he said. “There are some people who hate funding formulas but when you are talking about funding k-12 or higher ed or the technical colleges, you need some kind of enrollment-driven formula that provides a certain degree of predictability about how much you are going to have to work with. You can’t do individual budgets for 180 school systems and 2,500 schools. It is imperative to have some kind of enrollment-driven formula as at least one of the things you produce.”

“I am all for thinking out-of-the-box, doing some things different,” Brown said. “You don’t have to be wed to what is. ..but it is my belief that you cannot afford to go on a quest, hearing from many, many school systems in search of best practices in order to to build a formula. The formula has to be a common denominator. There has to be enough money so that any of the 180 school systems could adequately educate a child.”

Brown noted that out of school funding, 92 percent is salaries. Only 8 percent is operating costs. “I don’t believe this group wants to get heavily in teacher salaries,” said Brown.

At that point, state Sen. Fran Millar jumped in and said that teacher salaries and performance pay should be left alone until the results come back from the federal Race to the Top pilot programs, adding,  “It’s always better to experiment with other people’s money.”

QBE is dramatically underfunding education in several areas, Brown said. The formula underfunds transportation, barely recognizes technology needs and has failed to keep up with maintenance and textbook costs. And he cited the $1.1 billion in austerity cuts to the formula, as well as $200 million in cuts to the equalization grants provided to help poor systems, from $600 million to $400 million.

In fact, Brown wondered if the lawsuit over insufficient funding by local systems had ever made it to court, which side would have won.

“I am not sure which way it would have gone,” Brown said. “When we make budget cuts, poor systems are less able to deal with the cuts than some of the larger systems. While the lawsuit was not an equity suit per se, we need to be mindful of putting enough money in the formula so that any school system, even the poorer ones, have enough money to educate children.”

“I wouldn’t waste my time with any issue that hasn’t got any reasonable hope of improving student outcome,” Brown said. “I have strong feelings that if we do this study and recommend additional money along the way, I hope for board members and local that it doesn’t become backdoor tax relief…that it would be used for millage decrease.”

Now, the entire committee is sharing ideas for cutting costs, including whether counties could share administrators, such as superintendents and assistant superintendents. Several mentioned that Georgia needs to consider multi-county partnerships. One member suggested that the state should do away with established class sizes.

As to critical needs, several members mentioned improving preschool and beefing up the k-3 years, which they called foundational. Members suggested looking at after-school programs, school nurses, parental  outreach, graduation coaches, dual enrollment policies, school security, counselor staffing and data collection. To be data-driven, the state needs to make sure that there is quality control in data reporting. As schools are asked to report more data, they may not have the staff to do it well.

(There seems be a sense that school staffing is a mess —  too few people in classrooms and too many in the central office.)

But Professional Standards Commission head and committee member Kelly Henson noted that most school systems have already slashed their administrative staffs, which has meant that more tasks have been pushed down to the school level.

If central office staff is cut even more as a result of the committee’s work, Henson cautioned, “We have to realize there are consequences to those reductions and we need to understand that.”

The committee is back from lunch and now discussing the funding relationship between the local systems and the state, an equation that increasingly is weighted on the local side as the state cuts its contribution to schools.

They are discussing the large disparity between the small rural southwest and southeast Georgia districts and wealthy metro districts. “We have to look at not only tweaking the formula but tearing it up and starting  it over  to provide the same quality of education for all students in Georgia,” said one member.

Talking about the reductions in the equalization grants to poor districts, L. C. Buster Evans, superintendent of Forsyth County Schools, said, “I would hope one of our early recommendations for the short-term would be to make up that difference, that $200 million shortfall in equalization for those districts.”

Millar raised questions over the entire funding structure, including the requirement that local systems kick in five mills of local tax dollars for their schools.

“From the standpoint of how we fund schools, we always say that if you don’t have 450 kids for an elementary school, you get penalized. But some communities can’t have 450 kids, depending on the community. What is the basis for how we are doing this?  Why five mills? Why the school size numbers to get funding?”

Kelly Henson said the issue is getting money to kids in low-wealth districts, but there also has to be consideration of local effort and local will in school funding.

State Rep. Margaret Kaiser, D-Atlanta, who lives in Atlanta’s Grant Park, said that equitable funding is an issue in large districts, such as her own.  “My children are zoned for a school in an old building, but our other choice is in an area of high wealth that is building a brand new school. I would like the committee’s conversation to go to the money that is flowing down.. we also should ask for a  little accountability from the local systems in challenging them to look at schools that aren’t being utilized by their communities.”

Chair of the Senate ed committee, Millar said charter schools should be part of the equity and partnership discussions that the committee will have.

“What we are working on here is not just for today, but for the next 10 to 15 years,” Millar said.  “The growth of school choice is here; we have to think about.”

His House counterpart Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, said the committee could talk about choice without entering voucher territory. For instance, the committee could take up public school choice among districts, he said.

The discussion shifted here to the urgent need for innovation. Millar suggested that greater accountability was the wrong goal of the committee, that the real goal ought to be greater innovation.

“We can talk about the funding formula all day long,” said Millar. “But our academic performance in this state is mediocre at best.”

But Hank Huckaby, newly named chancellor of the Georgia University System, cautioned that innovation had to be tethered to real accountability when public funds were at stake. He earned a laugh when he noted that in some cases in Georgia, “Flexibility translated to long prison sentences.”

Evans, the Forsyth superintendent, urged discussion of federal funds, noting that federal dollars only account for one percent of his system’s funding, yet the feds control about 25 percent of what is required.

Coleman said the committee ought to look at mandates from the accreditation agency SACS as well. And he said the committee has to delve into the “scholarships” created by the Legislature that take funds out of public education, including the special education voucher and the $50 million private school scholarship tax credits

Henson is now speaking. “We do need a robust discussion about school choice relative to charters, magnet schools and everything else. But I will go ahead and give you my bias. I am opposed to giving one penny of taxpayer money to private schools. I think it is wrong. I am sorry that we ever did it. And I am doubly sorry that we did it without providing any accountability on those folks.”

(I am going to give you my bias. In my many years of reporting on education in Georgia, I have never met anyone as clear-headed, smart and honest about education as Kelly Henson. I would like to see him run DOE someday. I think he is willing to speak the truth and suffer the consequences. )

Now, the committee is wrapping up with final observations. Committee member and former state school board member James Bostic wants education majors taught math in the math department of their colleges and universities. He wants science taught to future teachers in the science department. He thinks that will improve their content knowledge.

Millar asked Chancellor Huckaby to look into overhauling teacher education, and he agreed to do so.

Coleman is now setting up the subcommittees that will begin meeting in earnest this summer. The next meeting of the full committee is Aug. 25 in Tucker. (I will post info as this would be a good meeting to attend.)

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

101 comments Add your comment

Inman Park Boy

June 30th, 2011
11:55 am

So when has the State of Georgia ever reached for “excellence” in any area? This is business as usual under the “Gold Dome.” My advice: send your kids to private schools where at least you have some say in the educational process, and you can vote with your feet.

TimeOut

June 30th, 2011
12:02 pm

It is time for those who wish to have a family to accept that they will have to fund themselves the cost of their children’s education. We have committed ourselves to the foolish notion that public schools must be all things to all people at all times in all places. Hence, we are not meeting the basic mandate of providing a quality basic education to all who would accept the opportunity and attempt to make the most of it. We won’t leave to the churches, the families, the communities themselves, sufficient responsibility for sustenance, character education, supervision, etc. We pick them up, feed them, house them throughout the day, feed them again, provide after-school supervision, and then take them home in time to resume their seats in front of the t.v. and then go to bed. Our most valuable asset receives such dismal oversight and care from us as a society, and quite often, as individuals.

TimeOut

June 30th, 2011
12:07 pm

If they want to cut costs, they can start at the state department, then county offices. We don’t need all of these superintendents, assistant superintendents, department coordinators, etc. Cut non-teaching staff to the bone and pay your teachers to take on the paper work on non-teaching days. Stop spending money on efforts to prove that the job is being done and just do the job. I agree that we don’t need separate educational bodies for all counties. That would be a good place to start………combine systems! Then we can eliminate a lot of county-level positions with useless job descriptions that are nothing more than ‘make-work’ positions to provide others with ‘yes’ men and women and protect fat-cat jobs higher up on the food chain.

equating excellence with music education

June 30th, 2011
12:15 pm

happy to hear a politician mention excellence and the establishment of performing arts at a school in the same breath. we’ve tried for years to figure out a “secret formula” that engages students intellectually while also inculcating the values of individual & group standards in a classroom setting. every attempt to eradicate fine arts – and performing arts in particular – in favor of the next “data driven” or “research based” educrap solution winds up with the same result: students involved in performing arts ALWAYS outperform the general population at a school. you’d think mr. brown would insist that band, chorus, and orchestra courses would be mandatory if they were truly indicative of school excellence.

Tony

June 30th, 2011
12:17 pm

“…we need to be mindful of putting enough money in the formula so that any school system, even the poorer ones, have enough money to educate children.”

“… you need some kind of enrollment-driven formula that provides a certain degree of predictability about how much you are going to have to work with.”

Most of us in the schools trying to make sure we do everything possible for the children to get the most from their education want a better mechanism for school funding and we want the state to take responsibility for its portion. The past 9 years have been the worst for Georgia’s children as state leaders have slashed education budgets so deeply.

The two quotes above are the best ones that I saw in Maureen’s post. We need to be realistic about funding. Schools cannot continue to provide even the most basic educational services if the state continues to underfund the school systems.

A couple of points the committee needs to keep in mind: teachers’ pay is an important consideration. If the state continues to reduce the level of funding for teachers’ salaries, we will lose our best teachers. There is no doubt about that. The other point is that the QBE formula was a very fair formula and helped to equalize resources for all of Georgia’s kids. Unfortunately, the state did not keep the formula up to date and began to manipulate it in ways that led to the undermining of quality in our schools.

I hope this panel stays focused on producing a fair and reasonable funding formula for our schools. I also hope that our state leaders will realize the importance of funding our schools at appropriate levels instead of heaping on additional cuts. Our kids deserve better than the state has been providing.

Scott in Atlanta

June 30th, 2011
12:19 pm

Brown is right. The first priority is to have basic, acceptable education everywhere in Georgia. The second priority is to have higher-priced “excellence” as far as we can afford it. Who can argue that we should not, first, assure basic education for everyone? Good for you, John. Keep reality on the table.

Beck

June 30th, 2011
12:21 pm

TimeOut –

While I’m not for a top-heavy administration, I’ve got news for you; teachers are ALREADY working on non-school days. Unless it’s summer, we’re grading and planning.

During summer, we take PLU courses, college course, work other jobs and some raise children because that is unpaid, non-contract, WELL-DESERVED time OFF!!!!

@ equating excellence...

June 30th, 2011
12:25 pm

I wholheartedly agree with you, but the politicians’ goal is NOT to fun excellent schools. Some say the final goal is to destroy the public education system.

@ equating excellence...

June 30th, 2011
12:28 pm

ScienceTeacher671

June 30th, 2011
12:41 pm

I’m with TimeOut – of the 92% spent on salaries, how much is spent on redundant county level positions? We have 180 districts – Florida, which is about the same size with about the same population has 67. So basically we have 3 times the bureaucracy for the about the same number of students.

William Casey

June 30th, 2011
12:41 pm

I will not take discussions of school funding costs seriously until the person responsible chooses to discuss taking a hard look at spending on textbooks. Textbooks are a racket! The cost to school systems is enormous! In some cases, texts are necessary. In most, they are not. This is 2011, not 1911! Maureen, I wish you would look into this. I’d be willing to help. BTW— thanks for reporting on this.

William Casey

June 30th, 2011
12:44 pm

@ScienceTeacher671: most of those bureaucratic positions are “political pork” doled out to friends, supporters and relatives of locally powerful people.

MrLiberty

June 30th, 2011
12:48 pm

Another rearrangement of the deck chairs while the Titanic sinks to the bottom. Heaven forbid we should make the intelligent choice to get on another boat. The USS Private Sector has plenty of room, accomodations for all, and the staff that knows it must serve the customer in order to have them. Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt the fantasy.

Burroughston Broch

June 30th, 2011
1:12 pm

Government schools always brag about excellence but really focus on mediocrity. You need look no farther that the government teacher pay scale. Regardless of whether you’re the top performer or the bottom performer, you’re paid the same. You’re just a small cog in a big wheel.

Garrison Keillor summarizes the government school educational PR blather well – “Lake Woebegone, where all of the kids are above average.”

oldtimer

June 30th, 2011
1:13 pm

In some counties the school system is the employment cow!

Yes Excuses

June 30th, 2011
1:21 pm

It just looks odd – seeing ‘Georgia’ and ‘excellence’ in the same sentence.

ScienceTeacher671

June 30th, 2011
1:21 pm

Yes, in many small rural counties the school system is the main employer, and without county government and the school system there would be no jobs to speak of at all – which is why Georgia is not likely to consolidate any time soon, and which is why we won’t see “smaller government” any time soon – they cut the schools, the State Patrol, the GBI, etc., but ignore the elephant in the living room.

RCH

June 30th, 2011
1:30 pm

A simple thought. Lets bill all the countries of illegal children that we educate.

Small System Teacher

June 30th, 2011
1:39 pm

This funding issue is getting ridiculous. Basically, politicians know they can cut education with very little “backlash”. The truth is, most teachers are working as smart as they can and as hard as they can. Many are achieving excellence by arriving early, staying late, working weekends and holidays, all while forsaking their families. Also, they are spending their own money on everything extra that the school can’t or won’t provide due to austerity cuts. Show me another profession where professionals are scrutinized and held as accountable as educators. This issue is going to get worse unless we all get together and vote for some public education friendly people to represent us as taxpayers. Most of my tax money goes to “school” taxes as it is, and now we have people in office who want to send everyone to private school with public funds. Way to go Georgia.

David Sims

June 30th, 2011
1:56 pm

Quoth Brown: “I am all for thinking out of the box…”
Not far enough out of the box, he isn’t.

Quoth Brown: “People like me have to have a funding formula.”
True.

Quoth Brown: “You need some kind of enrollment-driven formula that provides a certain degree of predictability about how much you are going to have to work with. You can’t do individual budgets for 180 schools and 2,500 schools. It is imperative to have some kind of enrollment-driven formula as at least one of the things you produce.”

Maybe true. A big enough staff, if it is competent and trustworthy and… oh, this is Atlanta. Nevermind.

Yes, you need an enrollment-driven formula. But the input to the formula must be more than the total number of students enrolled. Past formulas have assumed that educating one student is as worthwhile as educating another. That’s wrong. Some students can return to society more value per dollar spent on their educations than other students can.

The formula should weight the students according to their worthiness of higher education. Rather than making a formula that made funding a function of total number of students, you’d do better to make a formula that made funding a function of those students’ summed GPA’s.

Summing GPA’s might not be the best way to go because some students might come from more rigorous schools than others. Scores from a standardized test would probably give a better weighting factor, if you could prevent test score cheating by school officials.

Public schools are terrible

June 30th, 2011
1:59 pm

Simple answer: Do not put your kids in public schools. If parents “can’t afford it” then sell your Mercedes.

Curious One

June 30th, 2011
2:01 pm

Amen to Kelly Henson – he was great at Cobb’’s Walton and Pope and did a tremendous job as assitant superintendent in Marietta before his Rome experience and now the Standards Board – glad a man of his experience, vision, passion and intellect are part of the conversations – folks under the gold dome need to listen to Kelly Henson !

God Bless the Teacher!

June 30th, 2011
2:38 pm

FINALLY! Someone (Kelly Henson) said what needs to be said/done!! Not one penny should be given to private schools. Sending students to private school is a parent CHOICE beyond the standard education provided by taxpayer dollars. If you want to upsize your combo meal, YOU have to pay extra.

Conservative Miser

June 30th, 2011
2:44 pm

Dont expect the government to do anything for you from here on out except take more of your money and give to those who are sorry and do nothing. Save your own money for your self and your own family and prepare to be completely dependent on the fruits of your own labor. Accumulate money and gold and prepare to move out of this soon-to-be communist country. Everything is going to hell because too many people have become dependent on the cheese, and the government has gotten so big that it is in its own way.

David Hoffman

June 30th, 2011
2:49 pm

I would get rid of local funding of public K-12 education. The state should come up with a uniform property tax rate for the entire state that is applied to every single piece of private real estate. Then all the money goes to the state. The state takes the amount of revenue generated and divides by the number of enrolled students in the entire state. That gives the per pupil amount. Each county gets the per pupil amount multiplied by the number of enrolled students. The county school system is limited to paying for ALL costs out of the meoney it gets using the process. No local option sales, no local property taxes, no local income taxes, no local fees, etc. The money must pay for capital costs, operating costs, pension costs, etc.

MrLiberty

June 30th, 2011
2:50 pm

So the AJC title is “No Funding for Excellence”. True. Government schools fund for failure. In fact, the more you fail, the more money you get. That is the government way. In the private sector, the more you fail, well, you close up shop (yes, unless a bunch of crooked government folks steal taxpayer dollars to bail you out – but I am talking about the FREE MARKET, not our Fascist/Socialist USofA.).

Ron

June 30th, 2011
2:52 pm

Notice that politicians and excellence are never used together. Wonder why?

Steve

June 30th, 2011
2:53 pm

Maureen, thank you. This is why we still need a free press. Excellent post.

MrLiberty

June 30th, 2011
2:56 pm

God Bless the Teacher! – Damn right. So what if the government steals money from parents and then spends it on crap schools that they don’t want to send their kids to. They certainly shouldn’t be able to take their money back. I mean all of their money belongs to the government to do with as they will. If they want to send their kids to schools that will actually educate them fine, but we are stealing your money one way or the other. God certainly blessed the teachers in government schools. He empowered the government to steal on their behalf so they would not have to commit the crime of robbery on their own. Just imagine if every government teacher had to go house to house with a gun robbing everyone and forcing their kids into the miserable rundown prisons that employ them. Why there might even be some backlash. How wonderful that the armed police of the government can instead hang the threat of prison or wage garnishment, or tax liens, etc. over parents’ heads instead.

Screw you – parents should not have to pay for both. They deserve the RIGHT to their money and if the government schools can’t perform well enough to EARN the money they should be boarded up or sold to the prison industry. They already have most of the necessary security apparatus, etc.

School Choice & Voucher Advocate

June 30th, 2011
2:59 pm

@Downey – And I am going to give you my bias…I think any man (like Henson) who would make such a ridiculous and untruthful statement about the Scholarship programs in this state (The GSNS and The Tuition Tax Credit – two programs that are innovative and effective and are delivering major results) – has no business leading anyone or anything in education in a state that is woefully behind on a national and global level. The Center for An Educated Georgia @ http://www.educatedgeorgia.org is the hub of truth, reason and education – and thankfully they cleared up reality after your friend Badertscher at the AJC did the hack job article on the Tuition Tax Credit Program in late May. Once again, the diehard public school administrative “Cartel” and associated liberals fail to realize that both programs are NOT giving $ to private schools, the $’s are put in the hands of parents and children FOR THEM TO MAKE THE CHOICE TO GET THE EDUCATION THEY NEED. The Supreme Court has already ruled that Arizona’s, Florida’s, PA’s, GA’s and several other states who have similar programs, ALL OF THEM ARE VALID AND LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL. THANK GOD THEY ARE HERE TO STAY IN GA !!! Henson needs to get his facts straight before he opens his mouth and attempts to mislead the public. Maureen, shame on you purporting it…

Wondering

June 30th, 2011
3:03 pm

Any news about the APS cheating scandal report??? I thought Deal was going to receive it today.

Patricia

June 30th, 2011
3:16 pm

What happened over the past thirty plus years in Schools of Education? I was an education major and received all of my content courses through the specific departments not in the school of education. That meant my math classes were taught by the math department and my science classes were taught by the professors in the science department.

Teacher Educator

June 30th, 2011
3:23 pm

Maureen, Can you expand on Millar’s request to overhaul teacher education? Given the underwhelming goal of “adequacy” for K-12, I’m worried that the overhaul would be a deterioration rather than a strengthening…

Cobb Parent

June 30th, 2011
3:27 pm

I love Brown’s very practical point: create a formula and focus first on providing a basic education to all. But, it is too bad he won’t look at putting an orchestra in every school, or a band, chorus, or performing arts group. Arts inspire and motivate, make kids work hard on perfecting skills and make them work in a group – all good life skills. (Says a mom of a former band member.)

Millar is wedded to the indiocy of charter schools – which is just another way to spend public money without public oversight. Bad idea. And Millar is the head of the state senate ed committee – someone who doesn’t really wholeheartedly believe in public schools?!?!

Good for Henson a thousand times over for forthrightly saying we should not be giving money to private schools.

Can this group really look at that political boondoogle of $50 million in tax credits and bring some transparancy to what is going on with it?

But overall – we need to get the state back to the business of funding education. You can’t attract business to a state that doesn’t educate its kids.

teacher&mom

June 30th, 2011
3:53 pm

Mr. Bostic,
Maybe things have changed since I graduated from college but my I sat in the same science classes as the Biology and Chemistry majors. The only science course that was separate from the science department was a “Teaching of Science” course. It was taught by a professor from the science department. He had never taught outside the University and the course was a waste of time. He had no idea how to engage younger students.

Mikey D

June 30th, 2011
3:59 pm

“At that point, state Sen. Fran Millar jumped in and said that teacher salaries and performance pay should be left alone until the results come back from the federal Race to the Top pilot programs, adding, “It’s always better to experiment with other people’s money.””

Great idea. Those in the know can already tell you what the results of the rttt pilot programs will be, because the idea of merit pay for teachers has been tried in various forms for a hundred years. The results have always been the same… Merit pay has no impact on student achievement. But of course, you have people like Michelle Rhee and Erin Hames who insist that “this time, it will be different!” Wonder if they’ll have the backbone to publicly admit they were wrong a couple of years from now…. Probably not. I’m sure they’ll just blame teachers like they always do…

teacher&mom

June 30th, 2011
4:00 pm

@Maureen – thank you for the report. Could you post a list of all committee members?

I hope the committee continues to take an honest assessment of public school funding and leaves their personal agendas at the door. Adequately fund public education first and then work on your pet projects.

teacher&mom

June 30th, 2011
4:05 pm

@Cobb Parent – The state lost 50K in tax credits. Public schools were hammered with an additional 60K in austerity cuts. Is the public school budget being used to make up the difference in lost tax credits?

Maureen Downey

June 30th, 2011
4:45 pm

@Wondering, I asked someone from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement this afternoon and she was wondering, too, when it would be released.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

June 30th, 2011
4:50 pm

@teacher&mom, From the governor’s office:

The 20-member commission consists of 10 members tapped by Deal, four senators appointed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, four representatives named by House Speaker David Ralston, State Superintendent John Barge and Chief Operating Officer of the Georgia Department of Education Scott Austenson. The list of those appointed is as follows:

Gov. Deal
Hank Huckaby, chancellor-designate, University System of Georgia
Buster Evans, superintendent, Forsyth County Schools
Wes Taylor, principal, Lowndes County High School
Jadun McCarthy, 2012 Georgia Teacher of the Year
David Johnson, vice chair, Floyd County School Board, president-elect of Georgia School Board Association
Barbara Hampton, 6th Congressional District Member, State Board of Education
Lynn Cornett, at-large member, Technical College System of Georgia Board
Kelly Henson, executive secretary, Professional Standards Commission
Lee Lovett, Deputy superintendent & chief financial officer, Hall County Public Schools
Jim Bostic, representative, Business Community, member, ACT Board of Directors

Lt. Gov. Cagle
Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta), chairman, Senate Education and Youth Committee
Sen. Jim Butterworth (R-Cornelia)
Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville)
Sen. Freddie Powell Sims (D-Dawson)

Speaker Ralston
Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), chairman, House Education Committee
Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn)
Rep. Tom Dickson (R-Cohutta)
Rep. Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta)

HB 192 — which established the commission — was created to study the cost and resources required to educate a child. The commission will review the Quality Basic Education Formula, a method of calculating funding needed for Georgia school systems. Because it is more than 25 years old, the General Assembly passed the legislation to allow for a comprehensive study and evaluation of the QBE. It will also review other types of educational funding, including Race to the Top.

The commission will meet quarterly as required by the legislation, and must have the final recommendations completed by Sept. 30, 2012.

36 years in education

June 30th, 2011
4:54 pm

I took my content courses in the specific department and then ONE methods course specific to my major. Education professors DID NOT teach the content courses.

I am Central Office personnel now. ALL I do is state reporting…….and listening to complaints such as the one yesterday from the 28 year old mother of five stating that she didn’t like how her son couldn’t go to the movies during the school day in summer school– and it was the teacher’s fault. HUH? And that she was going to call Central Office on all of us– and I told her, I am Central office. Then she told me that we should take the children swimming.

In fact, she screamed, all we did was WORK and it is summer, you know. This is like real school, she howled.

I thanked her for contacting me with her concerns. She’ll probably call the Professional Standards on me and tell them I was not cooperative.

Pray for us all.

yuzeyurbrane

June 30th, 2011
5:02 pm

With Millar so prominent on the committee, I doubt anything good will come of it.

CharterStarter

June 30th, 2011
5:27 pm

Anything said about the Charter Schools Commission?

Maureen Downey

June 30th, 2011
5:30 pm

@Charter, No, but Fran Millar and Margaret Kaiser mentioned charters several times. In particular, Millar said that the committee might as well address charters since the issue was going to come up in the Legislature.
Maureen

Old Grumpy

June 30th, 2011
6:03 pm

I’m slogging my way through the “Great Books of the Western World” series. It was put together by a bunch of folks back in the early fifties. The first book is an introduction to the series. It was written in 1952, primarily by Robert Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago. He absolutely rips the education establishment. His premise is we spend too much time teaching people about a specific job and not enough time teaching them how to learn. According to Hutchins, learning is lifelong and should be available to everyone that wants it – regardless of age.

All this in 1952. When I read it, it could have been written yesterday. Nothing changes. I’ve been watching for changes in public education for most of my sixty something years and it just goes round and round – maybe in a spiral, sort of like water going down the drain. I don’t guess it will get any better in my lifetime.

I dread the world where my (yet unborn) grandchildren will grow up. No real education, no money for education, and what they will be taught is just the basic stuff for a specific career.

I work in IT and have for over 30 years. I can assure you, I have had to learn or starve my entire working life. So folks, we’d best figure out a way to teach our children how to learn.

Ah, the hell with it. Maybe I can talk my daughter into moving to a country where real education exists. I don’t know where that is, but if I can find it, I may move there myself.

tar and feathers party

June 30th, 2011
6:13 pm

You can get an excellent free education at the khanacademy dot com. Math, physics, history, chemistry, all for free and better than 99% of public school teaching. We do not need bloated public schools in the age of the internet! Kids use the khanacademy to learn math, and ace their high school tests without ever opening the textbook (a very expensive textbook too, one that we all have to pay for through our property taxes). Fire the teachers, close the schools, just log onto the khanacademy and get a superior free education!

Dekalb Oldtimer

June 30th, 2011
6:14 pm

WHOA!!!!!
BASICS!!!
that was the original intent of the funding of public education. Basic reading, basic math, basic history, basic geography!!!
That was the intention of the funding by our forefathers.
All Americans were to receive these basics.
How far astray have we wandered??????
OMG!!!! If we would go back to the concept of providing nothing more than the basics for all Americans???? Not multiple programs to meet the NEEDS of every individual student.
Anything more than the basics is not the responsibility of the GOVERNMENT….it is the responsibility of the individual.

Burroughston Broch

June 30th, 2011
6:17 pm

@ 36 years in education

Follow this link (http://bulletin.uga.edu/MajorSpecific.aspx?MajorId=114) to UGA’s catalog for degree requirements for a BSEd in Mathematics Education. You’ll see that things have changed since you graduated – more math courses (shown as EMAT) are taught in the School of Education than the real MATH courses.

Ronin

June 30th, 2011
6:23 pm

@Timeout 12:07 I agree. It appears that there are too many layers of management. 92% of budget is salary?! and 8% operating costs. That seems like an extremely high ratio for labor. Does anyone know what percentage of that 92% is actually spent on classroom staff (teachers) and how much is administrative costs?

Part of the problems appears to be too much bureaucracy, too many districts and school systems, all of which have their own managers, superintendents, asst. superintendents. If the state was in the top five in test scores nationally, I guess no one would have a problem with it. However, they’re not. It appears obvious that there are too many people involved in protecting their own “turf”. As such, change will most likely be slow, if at all.

Only government could operate this way. In the private sector, if your service (test scores) is 48th out of 50, no one is buying your product and in two years you’re out of business.

MB

June 30th, 2011
6:27 pm

I was there as well and have a couple of notes to add. Another word that came up was transparency; moving from compliance to accountability should require that systems show how they’re spending the money. (Don’t see how systems who need to furlough teachers ten days should still somehow find the money to subsidize 14 assistant football coaches, a full-time athletic director and his own secretary…)

On the issue of administrative staff, there was also a suggestion that reporting requirements should be evaluated for necessity and redundancy. Maybe, as 36 years notes, they wouldn’t need so many CO folks who do nothing but prepare data for the state. (I heard more than once today that we may be doing it that way because it’s been done that way forever.) Agree that there seemed to be a general feeling that there are still too many chiefs.

Encouragingly, WmCasey, they discussed textbooks vs technology needs – quite 21st century there. (The new GA TotY was pretty quiet, but he did note that we need to move from the 19th/20th century to the 21st!)

Kudos to Evans for bringing the elephant to the table – the unfunded federal mandate for special ed. Interesting to see if/how the commission addresses that! I agree that it seemed John Brown seemed refreshing forthright in his comments – and agree with him that they need to look at what hasn’t worked rather than try to start from scratch.

Remediation was another topic with interesting offshoots – intervene earlier rather than later since high school remediation apparently has very little payback. Why do we have 25 – 75% percent of students in college who enter requiring remedial services? (Why are we discussing re-funding graduation coaches when apparently we need to improve the value of graduates rather than just move them out?)

The Commission has a page on the DOE website; staff will be drafting white papers on the topics the subcommittees selected today. (Suggestion that the “low-hanging fruit” be picked first to show results for 2012 session.) It is here: http://tinyurl.com/3g2ax5t