A possible new funding model for Georgia schools

Joseph Martin

Joseph Martin

There is probably no one in the state of Georgia who better understands school funding than Joe Martin, who helped write the current QBE formula, which he says suffers from legislative failures over the years to fully fund it.

I was impressed that state Rep. Brooks Coleman and state Sen. Fran Millar, both Republicans, asked Martin, a Democrat who ran for state school chief and lost to John Barge, to advise their State Education Finance Study Commission. Their recognition of  Martin’s expertise trumped any partisanship, and I think the commission benefits from Martin’s careful attention to detail in drafting a new funding paradigm to consider:

Here it is:

House Education Committee

Hon. Fran Millar, Chairman

Senate Education Committee

FROM: Joseph G. Martin, Jr.

RE: Financing of K-12 Education in Georgia

Thanks for the opportunity to share my views and suggestions with the State Education Finance Study Commission. As I’ve said on several occasions, you have a very important responsibility, and I’m glad to assist you in any way I can. I respect and appreciate the careful and constructive approach you are taking.

The original intent of QBE was to provide funds to local school systems in a rational way on the basis of student needs. That premise is still sound, but the mechanics of the formula have become so detailed and arbitrary that the basic concepts have lost much of their meaning.

It is essential in building public confidence to articulate the needs of our schools in a way that is understandable and transparent. Only then can we explain why our students and state will benefit from investing in our schools. This is why the funding formula must be clear, fair, and flexible and focused on the goal of improving student achievement.

The overall approach I’ve suggested to you is a significant departure from QBE, because it is not based on a weighted student cost. Instead, it relies on the number of “teaching positions” earned by each school system according to approved staffing ratios (but with broad latitude in how these positions are filled). There would also be allocations for various forms of support at each school. Once these needs have been determined, the level of funding would have to be adjusted in relation to the fiscal capacity of each system, but in ways that differ from QBE.

Let me begin by repeating some of the concepts I tried to describe in my presentations.

First, the formula should be as simple as possible, while recognizing the varying needs of each student and the wide fiscal disparities among local school systems. The framework I’ve proposed to you can be summarized on a spreadsheet that is only one page long.

Second, the purpose should be to create a “foundation” of financial support in providing an adequate instructional program for every student in Georgia, regardless of where he or she may live, while affirming the ability of local communities to exceed the basic instructional program based on local needs and desires.

Third, the overall approach must begin with the State’s constitutional obligation to provide an adequate education for every student in Georgia. Fulfilling this obligation requires an effective partnership between the State and local systems, which takes into account the fiscal resources of each system.

Fourth, the basic steps in the funding formula are to (1) define the cost of the basic instructional program, (2) add grants for system-level costs, (3) calculate the required local share of these costs, (4) allow flexibility in the use of state funds, (5) enable local systems to raise additional funds to meet local needs and desires, and (6) provide additional assistance to the systems with the least resources. However, the funding formula loses its validity if the cost components are not estimated realistically.

Fourth, the quality of teaching is the crucial to the success of our schools and represents over 80% of all operating costs at every level. All of our efforts in education should be focused on our students, but the funding formula is tied largely to the provision of teaching positions.

Fifth, the cost to provide teachers for our schools ultimately depends on the number of students, the placement of these students into various programs, the salaries and other benefits for our teachers, and the staffing ratio for each program. Therefore, unless the compensation for teachers is changed from the current schedule of salaries and benefits, the key factor in the cost of education is the number of students per teacher. We have to find effective ways to adjust the staffing ratios without harming the quality of instruction, and the implications of any reduction in state funding should be expressed in these terms.

Seventh, regardless of the funding formula, we have to evaluate the outcomes in terms of student achievement and intervene whenever these outcomes are not acceptable.

My specific recommendations are set forth below. The recommendations that would not be costly and could be implemented with little difficulty are shown in bold type.

A. Calculate the cost of the “Foundation,” including system grants.

1. Determine the number of earned teaching positions to serve the number of students in each instructional program according to the staffing ratio for that program.

• The number of teaching positions can be based on the number of FTE students in each of the existing instructional programs in each segment of the school day and the staffing ratio for each program, as is now being done.

• Alternatively, the number of teaching positions can be based on a general staffing ratio for the total number of students at each organizational level (K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 or K, 1-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12) plus the number of teachers required to serve the number of students in Special Education and other supplemental programs for certain portions of the school day.

2. Compute the total cost of these teaching positions, using the salary and fringe benefits for a beginning teacher with the minimum certification (with adjustments to the extent that some of these positions have a higher starting salary).

3. Recognize the salary increments for training and experience through a total adjustment for all of the earned teaching positions in each system based on the overall level of experience and training for these employees.

4. Provide support for staff development, because of the continuing need to update and improve the skills of all educators, at a cost equal to 1.5% of the base salaries for the covered positions.

• This percentage was originally set at 1.5%, but was reduced to 1% in FY 2002 and has not been restored.

5. Add reasonable estimates of the cost for the required supervision of a typical school and school system, at a cost equal to 7% of the total cost of the earned teaching positions at each school for school administration and 3% of the total cost of the earned teaching positions in the system for general administration.

• The prescriptive and artificial staffing ratios for school and general administration should be replaced by simple “overhead” rates, as used by many businesses.

6. Add allowances for textbooks, technology, supplies, equipment, library books and media, and travel, based on a reasonable amount per student at each organizational level, along with specific “add-ons” as may be necessary for certain programs.

• There should be a “reality check” to ensure that the overall total is not less than 75% of the statewide average cost per student for these expenditures in the most recent year for which such data is available.

7. Share in the total cost of facility maintenance and operation, based on the estimated cost per student of maintaining a typical school building.

• There should be a “reality check” to ensure that the overall total is not less than 60% of the statewide average cost per student for these expenditures in the most recent year for which such data is available.

8. Provide a system grant to cover a major part of the cost of student transportation according to the specific needs in that system.

• There should be a “reality check” to ensure that the overall total of these grants is not less than 60% of the statewide average cost per student for these expenditures in the most recent year for which such data is available.

9. Provide a system grant, which includes per-student guidelines, to cover a major part of the cost of nursing services, according to the specific needs in that system.

• There should be a “reality check” to ensure that the overall total of these grants is not less than 75% of the statewide average cost per student for these expenditures in the most recent year for which such data is available.

10. Provide a system grant to defray the extra costs caused by extreme sparsity and the geographic isolation of specific schools, as well as financial incentives to encourage small systems to coordinate services and functions with RESAs and other systems.

B. Create an effective partnership with local school systems.

1. Expect the State to pay 80% of the total cost of the Foundation for the state as a whole, and

2. Allocate the remaining 20% of the total cost for the entire state among all of the local school systems on the basis of their relative taxable wealth per student.

• The total local share would be apportioned among all local systems according to the percentage of the total statewide equalized property-tax digest per student that is represented by each system.

• The total local share would no longer be a fixed amount based on five mills, but would vary according to the total amount of the formula and system grants.

• Nevertheless, the number of mills required to cover each system’s local share would still be the same in every system (with the assessment methods and property tax exemptions being consistent from system to system).

• This approach would create a true partnership in the sense that the State and local systems would share the cost of increases in the Foundation as well as any savings that would result from decreases.

3. Consider adjustments in the taxable wealth for each local school system based on median household income, local retail sales, or the percentage of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

• Median household income is a more reliable measure than per-capita income, which can be distorted by the presence of a few high-wealth individuals.

• The percentage of students who are eligible for free or reduced price meals is a good proxy for household income. It offers the practical advantages of being updated regularly and being available for independent as well as county systems.

• An adjustment of this nature would recognize the ability of the taxpayers in each system to pay the taxes related to the size of their tax digest per student. It would also assist the systems which have high student needs in relation to their tax base.

C. Allow local flexibility in the use of State funds.

Permit local systems to spend the funds for the Foundation in the way they believe is the most beneficial to their students, subject to overall standards, limits on class sizes, a minimum salary schedule, and accountability for the performance of their students.

• The detailed expenditure controls that now exist (except for temporary waivers) would be replaced by the requirement that all funds allotted by the State to each local school system for direct instruction be spent for this purpose.

• Every local system would have to provide at least as many teaching positions as the number earned through the staffing ratios for the various instructional programs; but as a way to encourage innovative approaches, the system could fill a teaching position by substituting various forms of technology and/or various combinations of certificated teachers and other employees.

• The system would also have flexibility in the size of individual classes so long as any single class did not exceed the base class size for its program and grade level by more than 25%.

D. Enable local systems to raise additional local funds to meet local needs.

Recognize the authority of local systems to levy property taxes in excess of the required local share for the purpose of increasing their salaries above the State’s minimum salary schedule and enhancing the services to their students.

• The amount of this funding would vary from system to system depending on the fiscal capacity and political will of each system.

E. Provide additional assistance to the systems with the least local resources.

1. Provide Equalization Grants to enable all systems to increase salaries and enhance the services to their students on the same basis as the system at a defined level of taxable wealth per student.

2. Set the benchmark for Equalization Grants at the statewide average for the equalized property-tax digest per student instead of the equalized property-tax base per weighted student for the system at the 75th percentile when all systems are ranked on this basis.

• Using the overall state average per student would be much easier to understand and much more stable and predictable from year to year.

• The statewide average ($175,437) is almost exactly the same as the taxable wealth for the system at the 75th percentile ($176,248) in FY 2012.

3. If the total amount of Equalization Grants has to be reduced by a certain amount, adjust the benchmark to a level which reduces the total amount of these grants to the prescribed total.

• This approach would allocate the available funding so that the percentage reduction declines on a graduated basis from the current benchmark to the system with the lowest taxable wealth per student, instead of the current method of reducing all of the grants by the same percentage.

4. Do not recognize federal Impact Aid in the number of mills to be equalized in the calculation of Equalization Grants.

• The current approach inflates the Equalization Grants to certain systems by counting federal Impact Aid as revenue generated by local property taxes.

5. Simplify the calculation of Equalization Grants by using the total FTE rather than the weighted FTE for each system.

• Discontinuing the use of program weights would require the use of an FTE total or some form of adjusted FTE in calculating Equalization Grants, but there would not be a significant shift in the distribution of these funds.

F. Remove the internal constraints that limit the major compensatory programs.

1. Modify the Early Intervention Program to provide the extra help needed by students in grades K-5 to perform at grade level on a sustained basis.

• This program should be offered to those students who either meet the current criteria for eligibility or are eligible for free or reduced-price meals and have not met grade-level expectations for at least two consecutive years (to avoid abrupt changes). In addition, the “cut-off” score for continued eligibility should be increased to a higher level so that a student does not move into and out of EIP as a result of small changes in test scores above the threshold for meeting expectations on the CRCT.

• The rules for implementing the various delivery methods, especially in terms of the maximum class sizes, should be revenue-neutral so that a school can choose the method that is best for its students without a financial penalty.

2. Modify the Remedial Education Program to provide the extra help needed by all of the students in grades 6-12 who are not making satisfactory progress toward graduation from high school, without an arbitrary ceiling on the number of eligible students in each school.

• Participation in REP is now arbitrarily limited to 25% of the students at any school or 35% of the students at a school if half of the students at that school are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

3. Modify the Alternative Education Program to serve all of the students who need a non-traditional setting to graduate from high school in addition to the students who have been identified as being disruptive, without an arbitrary ceiling on the number of eligible students in each system.

• Participation in AEP is now arbitrarily set at 2.5% of the total number of students in grades 6-12 in each school system.

Thanks again for your dedicated service to our state and the skillful way in which you are leading the work of this commission.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

54 comments Add your comment

megannave

October 6th, 2011
6:11 am

Online courses allow us to serve students who live too far away to attend face–to–face courses. For instance “High Speed Universities” offer courses all over us and can get degree in months even while working.

Sk8ing Momma

October 6th, 2011
6:31 am

Why can’t school systems keep it simple??? The disparity in school funding from district to district is a thorn in my side. I’ve never been a fan of funding based on taxes in respective school districts. IMO, it is inherently inequitable and seems to run afoul of our state and federal Constitutions, namely the equal protection clauses. Rather, funding should be strictly on a per capita basis. Funds should be collected in one state line item and divided on a per capita basis per student. If Georgia collects X number of dollars and has Y number of students, it should be distributed by dividing X by Y. (Adjustments should be permitted for “cost of living” disparities, ex. cost of doing business in various jurisdictions.) The State should distribute funds on this basis and say, “Here’s your funding based on the number of students you have…Make it happen!”

Hank

October 6th, 2011
6:39 am

While there are a few new ideas here, this “new formula” is much more like the current formula than it is different from it. I would be interested in seeing which districts would be winners and losers under this new plan. It should be a relatively simple task to take Martin’s spreadsheet, plug in numbers currently on hand at DOE, and see how individual systems make out. I encourage the AJC to have someone run the numbers. That is the only way to find the devils in the details.

Ernest

October 6th, 2011
6:48 am

Is there a ‘Cliff Notes’ version of this? :)

I recall hearing Joe Martin speak about the QBE algorithm used to determine school funding. My takeaway was that it was a static formula that did not evolve since the mid 80’s as there were significant pricing changes since then. A great example was the funding set aside for books. It has remained the same despite sharp increases in the cost of books. As a result, local school districts picked up a greater burden in this expenditure. Many districts changed their book refresh schedule as a means to save money. This ultimately impacted instruction.

If this is an attempt to update the algorithm by factoring in all that we have learned over the years, I’m for it. Several of the recommendations definitely attempt to ensure there is adequate funding for all students. The algorithm must contain the appropriate triggers perhaps tied to inflation that can be adjusted as student enrollment, classification and various costs change. Ultimately common sense must be used as we shouldn’t solely determine how to fund schools based on an algorithm. It should provide a good starting point.

catlady

October 6th, 2011
7:03 am

Mr. Martin, give us a few examples of how the funding would differ for a county using the old formula vs. this new one. I have a feeling, with all the 60% in there, “adequate” would be less, but I don’t know. Examples?

lou

October 6th, 2011
7:15 am

This funds the teacher. The state needs to fund the student (adjusted for their special needs like poverty, learning disability, etc.) There is nothing wrong with the QBE except that it is not being funded by the folks under the golden dome. Distribute the dollars equitably to the systems based on student needs and, if you are a legislator, get out of way. This is not a simpler formula, it is just more of the same micromanagement. I appreciate the Martin and Millar working together, but if they want to work on education, let them run for school board positions, or better yet, become a principal for a year or two.

Van Jones

October 6th, 2011
7:30 am

Looks like he is leaning towards “throw more money at it” solution. And no, these superintendets are NOT serving the same role as the head of a coproration with 10,000 to 15,000 employees.

Concerned Parent

October 6th, 2011
7:53 am

Whatever happens, remember us parents that work hard and sacrifice to send our children to better schools. We should have a choice as to where our tax dollars are being spent regarding our schools. It would be nice to simply “opt out” of all of the taxes forced upon us to pay for mostly mediocre public/government schools and let us keep our monies and use them to pay for schools of our choice. You simply have to get the free market back into our school choices, and then both private and government schools will improve.

Once Again

October 6th, 2011
8:08 am

Another example of failed top-down bureaucratic mismanagement. Socialism failed. Why is that so hard to accept? Believing that you can micromanage a service-delivery mechanism with no price system, value system or otherwise is absurd and the root cause of government school failure.

So long as money is being stolen, rather than earned, the system is doomed to failure.

catlady

October 6th, 2011
8:12 am

Let’s put an end to calling systems like Gwinnett “poor” and in need of assistance (through Fair Share-ha) from counties like mine, where 75% of the kids are on free lunch.

catlady

October 6th, 2011
8:13 am

Also, no more Fair Share for those systems that don’t tax the maximum 20 mils! I understand if a mil in their area doesn’t bring in as much as a mil in, say, Cobb County, but there is no sense giving away others’ money to a system that only taxes itself 15 mils, for example.

Jennifer

October 6th, 2011
8:17 am

How would IE2 with no class size limits fit into this ? Same rule, they can flex all they want on class size but if they don’t fit into the guidelines they don’t earn money ?

—But more importantly, great job Mr. Martin!

The first comprehensive user friendly description of school funding I have ever seen. BUT – unless there is oversight on the “alternative school” development and enrollment is only based on parent choice (not forced through the school system) we are looking at a step toward a racially segmented school system. For those students that are told – move out of our traditional school – if a student opts not to go – then they will be forced into the “alternative school for disruptive students”. Or on the flip side – if all the alternative schools are “geared toward gifted students” – there is a problem as well.

This model could dip either way – segregation or enhanced alternatives to traditional education. The issue is there is no commitment to monitoring racial and gender equality in such schools. And the districts will abuse this strategy because they know no one will be able to monitor. Look at what the open campuses get away with.

TeacherReader

October 6th, 2011
8:21 am

I don’t understand funding of schools in Georgia. Other places that I have lived, the state funded x amount of dollars per child and then the local taxes funded everything else. I have a problem with my local taxes being used to make things “fair.” Life isn’t fair. It’s not fair to me to pay more in taxes and have some of the money sent to other school districts that are not paying as high of taxes as I am.

I believe that the way schools are funded in the Stossel report on education, where parents are given a voucher and are able to pick the school in which they send their children is the model that we need to use. Good schools expand and poor schools close. Competition is a great thing, and would keep costs down. I have been in many charter schools who spend a great deal less money per child and provide a superior product. The way that money is spent in public schools is as it grows on trees and is free money and readily available. The cost increases in education have gotten out of control. Keep it simple stupid. Less money, better schools is very possible, but it would require the cash cow to come to a close and only fund the very necessary of positions, and right size all salaries, including the superintendents, whose salaries, benefits, and perks have gotten out of control.

Joe Frank

October 6th, 2011
8:24 am

IF the state legislature is REALLY interested in ewducation, they would pass a law that limits their input to providing the funds for LOCAL BOE’s to run their systems. Keep the pet projects out of the mix, and let LOCALLY elected people do their jobs!

Lee

October 6th, 2011
8:31 am

Yawn… Leave it to the government to make a simple process so complicated that no one knows how the heck the funding formula is supposed to work.

GeeMac

October 6th, 2011
8:47 am

Teacher Reader,

Mr. Martin’s recommendation clearly states “the number of mills required to cover each system’s local share would still be the same in every system (with the assessment methods and property tax exemptions being consistent from system to system).” If your local system chooses to raise additional funds through property taxes, they have that option. However, there are some systems, like mine, that simply do not have enough of a tax base to cover all expenses, even at the maximum tax rate, and Martin’s plan seems to address that issue through needs-based grants. And believe me, down here in the other Georgia, we know money for education does not grow on trees (or peanut vines or cotton stalks).

carlosgvv

October 6th, 2011
8:47 am

Martin seems to have come up with a thoughtful, well planned program to improve our schools. This means, of course, that our Republican lawmakers will never accept it.

Anonmom

October 6th, 2011
8:50 am

There need to be restraints on percentages or amounts spent in the central office (or mandates on perecentages going into the classroom) — DCSS has way toooooo much money going into central office and not enough into the classroom. There are vast differences in costs between the “big city” and the rural areas — it cuts both ways. Costs are higher in the big city (salaries, taxes, etc) and the logistics of transportation and finding folks is difficult in the rural areas. The on-line academies or actually boarding high schools may be able fill some voids but we need to be a bit more creative here (I don’t pretend to know the answers on this one — I’m just pointing this out). I have a real problem with DeKalb taxing at the highest mil level at “city rates” and then “fair share” kicking in and DCSS not keeping everything it’s taxing us on… then add to that the extraordinary number of FLL kids (okay, some are just there for filling out forms but there are an unbelievable number of disadvantaged kids in the population) and it just doesn’t make sense that the “can pay” taxpayers are “fair sharing” their funds to other parts of the state that aren’t even taxing at full mil rates (and one of some receiving counties are places like Gwinnett that seem to be in significantly better shape….). Something doesn’t smell right in Denmark and really needs to be “equalized” in the new formula. Although most of you know that at this point, I’d rather have vouchers because I really think the whole system is pretty corrupt– but that is a different story — if we could have some real checks and balances–like real annual forensic audits, an on-line mandatory check register and p-card register, etc., maybe I might not feel like it was oh, so corrupt — maybe a bit more probing in the reporting from our local media would help too.

me

October 6th, 2011
9:26 am

@Anonmom – there was a 65% rule in GA – at least 65% was to go to the classrooms under it. It was knocked out a few months back.

it was the first thing John Barge got rescinded after being elected state super. priorities?

Anonmom

October 6th, 2011
9:35 am

Somehow I missed that and I think 65% gives central office too much money….

TeacherReader

October 6th, 2011
9:36 am

GeeMac, than your district needs to raise it’s millage rate or make cuts. I am paying the more than my fair share, can’t send my children to my local school if I actually expect to get them educated and not indoctrinated, and am tired of some of my money going to other counties/districts. In rural Pa, when rural districts can’t afford to educate reasonably the districts get larger, so that money is used efficiently. There is no redistribution of tax money. I am sorry that running a school is expensive, but it seems to me that Ga’s rules of not having any new school districts may be somewhat to blame. I went to college with kids that spent significant time on the bus each day to get to school. Another option for these rural districts is to use the cyber charter school and man classrooms with teachers to be the children’s learning coaches. This would cut out significant costs in central office positions, and the curriculum that the cyber school uses is way better than the kids get in DCSS.

AnonMom, I agree. I wouldn’t mind the high taxes, if the money was staying within the county and used effectively.

Competition among our schools would lead to better products for our children, but will never fly because of the strong hold organizations like the NEA have on politics.

Teacher2

October 6th, 2011
9:41 am

I would add that ALL school systems reduce their county office staff by at least 70% (along with salary reductions) or based on student/teacher/administration ratios that put more staff interacting with the students daily. The reduction of county office staff is a cost cutting measure that can immediately save millions of dollars in wasted personnel. The problem of overstaffing the county office is an overlooked problem that has a direct unfavorable affect on the classroom and student resources. The county office positions divert much needed funds from the schools and students.

alm

October 6th, 2011
9:41 am

Amen Catlady and Anonmom. DeKalb’s rate is over 20. I never understood how Gwinnett could receive money while DeKalb had to pay in. DeKalb has 91 Title 1 schools.

November 6, 2012

October 6th, 2011
10:04 am

BULL HOCKEY – Joe Martin is a good example of what’s wrong with our governments, taking what should be a simple formula and making it so complex it takes a mathematical genius to figure it out. Formula = Budgeted amount by State of Georgia for education/ Number of estimated students in Public Systems = Amount per student X Number of students in each system = Total given to each system. Shortages to fund the system, if any, should be made up by the individual system by increasing the millage rate or by raising the property assessment or by an ELOST. Please, don’t tell me we can’t do this……we can if that’s what’s necessary that we do to fund the education of our children. This thing has gotten all out of whack because of all the entitlements we (state) provides and all the political correctness that is so prevalent. Folks, our state is gonna be bankrupt if we don’t stop this nonsense. Oh, one more thing……if you are in this country illegally and have children in a public school, please take your children and leave immediately…..we can’t afford you.

Lee

October 6th, 2011
10:23 am

“The framework I’ve proposed to you can be summarized on a spreadsheet that is only one page long.”

The framework I’ve proposed to you can be summarized with a one line formula: # students * $xxxx.

There, I fixed it for you.

SoGAVet

October 6th, 2011
10:37 am

It doesn’t matter what the formula is if the Legislature refuses to follow the formula – which is what they have done since the inception of QBE.

[...] on what changes need to be made to the QBE formula. The AJC’s “Get Schooled” blog has some advice from Joeseph Martin, a Democrat who helped write the original QBE formula and ran for State School Superintendent. The [...]

William Casey

October 6th, 2011
11:23 am

Some money issues barely touched upon:

1. Georgia has far too many counties with inherent waste in schooling. Some entire systems have fewer students than Milton High School. School jobs are political patronage.

2. Textbooks are an exorbitantly expensive racket. Some courses require texts, others don’t. New editions are largely a waste.

3. Central office staffing is often cited as wasteful and often this is rightfully so. Does anyone have statistics on central office costs per student that compare different systems? It would be nice to know which systems are efficient and which are not.

GeeMac

October 6th, 2011
11:33 am

William Casey – Please clarify your first point “Some entire systems have fewer students than Milton High School. School jobs are political patronage.” Are you saying that small systems are only operating for political purposes? Or that because a system is small, it is inherently wasteful? Just want to be sure I understand you.

Changing The Way We Fund Education

October 6th, 2011
11:50 am

[...] experts on what changes need to be made to the QBE formula. The AJC’s “Get Schooled” blog has some advice from Joeseph Martin, a Democrat who helped write the original QBE formula and ran for State School Superintendent. The [...]

big picture

October 6th, 2011
11:59 am

My concern is the statement that the state will provide funding as required for special ed., and other services (etc. – let’s assume given state mandates that gifted services funding would included as well), but leaves it to the local systems to then use that money as they see best fit to serve the students in their district. In a county like DCSS, it already misuses state funds provided to such services (like gifted). For example, funds are passed on to principals who can decide how they want to use the money. So, for example, if they have enough gifted points to qualify for say, only 1/2 of a Discovery teacher, they can actually decide to use those funds to provide who schools services instead, with the “cover” that they are doing within classroom differentiated instruction. In other words, the funds provided to the county to provide gifted educational services to the kids in that school do not actually get used to serve the gifted population. This is particularly and issue if the school has “too few gifted students to really qualify for a discovery teacher,” and hence, apparently, the few that are present aren’t worthy.

I think APS might actually have this one right. Because they see themselves as required to address such services, once a week students from schools where there are “too” few to have an instructor at the school are transported to an area school to get such instruction together outside of that home school.

How is the state going to ensure that the kids who need extra services get them? Barge indicates that he wants to give freedom to the local districts to determine and meet their own needs. This scares the beejeesuuus out of me. I live in DeKalb. Under the old system super, and apparently the new (with four new deputy superintendents who are doing the same jobs as others who still are in those positions at a cost of $156,000 EACH on top of the administrative salaries already being paid AND two women – Atkinson and Tyson – receiving the SALARIES and BENEFITS of SUPERINTENDENT – yep, we’ve doubled up our ENTIRE administrative offices – at the administrator levels), I am hard pressed to not want MORE oversight from the state than this. I, for one, do not trust my local county to spend these dollars wisely. Indeed, as noted above, we’re paying for two of EVERYTHING administrator at the top, but this weekend, our kids are taking Friday and Monday off because we simply cannot afford to pay the teachers and need to furlough them. And don’t even get me started about our legal budget. Can the state specify that funds CANNOT be used to pay for legal fees when supers and board members and other administrators are charged with crimes against the system?

Sorry, the rewrite scares me. No oversight = EVEN MORE corruption.

November 6, 2012

October 6th, 2011
12:56 pm

@William Casey

October 6th, 2011
11:23 am

Some money issues barely touched upon:

1. Georgia has far too many counties with inherent waste in schooling. Some entire systems have fewer students than Milton High School. School jobs are political patronage.

Tell you what, Mr. Bill – You’d be hard pressed to find a better school system than the CSD. At the risk of offending you :) you don’t know WTH you’re talking about.

Shar

October 6th, 2011
1:02 pm

I agree the the central office percentage of funding needs to be legislated, primarily because the local bureaucracies won’t do it themselves. If central office spending was held to 25% of total (and closely defined, to inhibit sliding central costs to a classroom line item), administrative efficiency would finally receive attention rather than the current lack thereof justifying additional hiring. It’s the same dodge that Atlanta’s mayors have used – any cuts in positions come where the taxpayers least want them (police and fire), leaving the bureaucracy that taxpayers object to intact.

There is little in Mr. Martin’s schema that involves financial accountability. He has long been a proponent of statewide education taxes, funding “poorer” counties (including, as catlady notes, those counties that refuse to raise their millage rates enough to pay for their own schools) with property tax from “richer” ones. This latest iteration of the theme obscures the intention but maintains the statewide funding mechanism. As a resident of Atlanta, which received an exemption on the ceiling for millage rates in order to pay for our (useless) public schools, I would vehemently oppose sending property tax revenues to a system that holds millage to half – or less – of the rate I pay. Consolidation of the smaller counties to achieve some minimum efficiency should be mandatory if statewide property taxes are to be mingled, and statewide accounting should also be used to minimize local chicanery.

Finally, I don’t understand Mr. Martin’s inclusion of the Remedial Education Program in his funding proposal. REP is indeed expensive and funding limits are currently the only brake to the ballooning growth of this program. This section of his proposal seems more of a support to a pet project of his than it does responsible financial management, and more appropriate to local decisionmaking.

Nick P

October 6th, 2011
1:43 pm

all education money should be put in the middle and proportionally or percentage wise it should be kept equal from school system to school system. Just because some areas in south fulton are poorer and have a smaller tax base than north fulton, it should not mean that school system should suffer or have much less to offer its students internally than other richer neighborhoods, if thats the case then we are back to separate but equal when everyone knew it was just separate and nothing else!

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

October 6th, 2011
2:12 pm

An illogical factoid: If money is the life’s blood of politics,
And money is the life’s blood of public schooling,
Then does that mean that
Public schooling is politics,
Not education.

William Casey

October 6th, 2011
2:12 pm

@November: I beg to differ. Having 159 counties leads to rediculous duplication. Paying a superintendent a high salary to run a system of <5,000 students is also a bad joke. Watching all those $50.00 texts sit in lockers is a waste. I know of what I speak. I don't think that I commented on "CSD" whatever that is. Not offended, though.

William Casey

October 6th, 2011
2:14 pm

Public schooling IS the most local of all politics.

William Casey

October 6th, 2011
2:25 pm

@GEEMAC: both. Georgia has 159 counties (compare this number with other states) because of political patronage going way back in our state’s history. One can make the argument that small counties keep government “closer to the people,” but, it is inherently wasteful. Economies of scale. Paying a Superintendent to run a school system of <5,000 alone wastes money. School official appointments are politics.

ERoach

October 6th, 2011
2:28 pm

Joe Martin gets it. He gets how to allocate funds to local school districts, and he gets that Georgia has been shortchanging students in violation of the Georgia Constitution for years now. Oops, wait–he’s a Democrat (and a white Democrat, too)–not the kind of person we need in state government.

Jack

October 6th, 2011
3:01 pm

Teaching trades is fine and probably the only way some kids are going to be reached. Their completion and recognition for the course should require some basic business math and some social skills at least. I mean you can’t own and operate a auto repair shop without being able to communicate on some commercial level that customers will understand. You also have to know how to prepare an invoice and read a bank statement.

justjanny

October 6th, 2011
4:42 pm

Lester Maddox for President!! Oops…I mean Herman Cain!

Improvement?

October 6th, 2011
4:53 pm

I am an accountant of 18 years with an MBA and I got a headache trying to decipher simple meaning out of what was presented. There must be a less convoluted way.

This would never stand as a private sector model.

Appropriate Funding

October 6th, 2011
6:42 pm

Central office administrators, despite their bad rap, should be budgeted according to how essential they are to student success.

If we look at DeKalb as an example, 14 cents for every seven million students a school system has sounds about what they are worth, give or take a penny or two.

btc

October 6th, 2011
7:52 pm

Could somebody in Atlanta please just work out a system of funding so we teachers could get paid without taking 10 days pay each year? This is the third year for us down here below the city! By the way, we are a 100% free and reduced lunch SYSTEM! Are we just the forgotten? Is anyone up there talking about reinstating teacher salaries?

Chip

October 6th, 2011
8:48 pm

There is a reason Joe Martin has lost each time he ran for State School Superintendent!!!!

Phil

October 6th, 2011
9:13 pm

Ole Joe must be advising the President on economics. I prefer Herman Cain’s 999 Plan. Easy to understand. Let the State give $8,000 to locals for each student. $4,000 extra for each special ed student. Tweak the numbers. If local school systems want more, let them pay locally. If school members refuse to raise the millage rate, vote their rear ends out of office.

Joe Martin reminds me of the Energy Bunny Rabbit…or Jimmy Carter. Nice guy. Smart guy. But…

Get on the Cain Train. No more economic pain. Honkies for Cain!

Phil

October 6th, 2011
9:15 pm

Honkies for Herman! I actually messed up the slogan.

bootney farnsworth

October 6th, 2011
9:35 pm

@ btc

hell will freeze over first.
we’re never gonna see our lost wages returned.

but boy oh boy, the number of new, highly paid
chiefs grows by the week

down and out

October 6th, 2011
9:58 pm

Ed Heatley and his administrators are not wise stewards of the county’s finances. Why did he hire a lead counselor? Money wasted. Why do they have a group of teachers visiting schools to see if standards are on the board? Why aren’t these so-called experts in the classroom sharing their expertise? Why were thousands of dollars spent on materials that we do not need? Inquiring minds want to know.

Once Again

October 6th, 2011
10:03 pm

Its truly amazing how many opinions there are on how to divy up stolen monies. If we were discussing money that was being privately and voluntarily contributed to fund the education of a particular child by his/her parents, this discussion would have ended before it began because the parents would do exactly as they pleased with their money. If the money was voluntarily contributed to fund a scholarship program or charity school, the only discussion would be between the contributors and the recipients about how the money might be spent (in order to secure continued contributions).

But when the government steals on your behalf from your childless neighbors, the local businesses, other local property owners and plenty of others who are not directly benefitting (and I would make the case that they are not benefitting even indirectly from the horrible educations being doled out), the discussions can go on forever.

Personal responsibility, charity, and support for the free market are never discussed among thieves (or those who get government to steal for them).