The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute just issued a bleak report on school funding prospects for next year, noting that the governor’s proposed budget for K-12 education has a $1 billion hole in it. (It is an improvement over last year when the hole was $1.1 billion.)
What’s often confusing to readers — and gives cover to lawmakers — is that school funding will increase by $205 million. But the institute’s Claire Suggs, senior education policy analyst, notes that more than 60 percent of those additional dollars are dedicated to funding enrollment growth and normal salary adjustments for teachers.
She says, “These dollars are critical to ensuring that the state’s investment in its students does not slip much further.”
Suggs warns: “Georgia’s education funding has deteriorated for years. If lawmakers accept the 2014 budget proposal, state funding through QBE, QBE equalization, and other programs will be well below the 2009 level.”
Here is an excerpt of the report. Please read the full report before commenting:
Georgia continues to shortchange its K-12 students. The Quality Basic Education program, the primary mechanism for distributing state money to local school districts, is underfunded by $1 billion in the governor’s budget for the 2014 fiscal year. While the proposed budget would increase total funding over last year, the extra money primarily covers the added cost of more school children and a salary adjustment for teachers’ training and experience. For districts and schools across the state there will be little relief from larger class sizes, shorter school calendars and teacher furlough days.
The outlook is better for pre-kindergarten education. The governor plans to raise funding for Pre-K to increase the number of school days from 170 to 180. Still, funding for Pre-K would remain below 2009 levels.
Georgia has an ambitious goal of increasing the number of students who complete a postsecondary certificate or degree program by 250,000 by the year 2020. This will require many more students who finish high school and many more fully prepared for postsecondary study when they leave the school system. The Georgia Department of Education is moving ahead with new strategies that place higher expectations on teachers and students to meet this goal.
Yet the state consistently underfunds its schools and is cutting programs in areas like science and technology that encourage students to go into those high-demand fields. Georgia cannot build the workforce it needs to spur economic growth and create more jobs if it does not invest adequate resources in its students.
The governor’s amended budget for the 2013 fiscal year, which ends June 30th, increases funding for K-12 by $154 million, mostly to account for enrollment growth. Most other education programs will absorb significant cuts during the remainder of the current fiscal year, including
• Agricultural education ($229,515)
• Nutrition ($1,647,230)
• Regional Education Service Agencies ($205,995)
• School Improvement ($93,579)
• Technology/Career Education ($421,775)
Though QBE remains significantly underfunded, the governor’s budget year that begins July 1, 2013, does take a small step forward. In it the governor calls for full funding of the QBE equalization program, which provides funds to districts whose low tax digest limits how much local money can be raised through local property taxes. His budget also adopts several of the recommendations of the State Education Finance Study Commission: increased funding for professional development; school nurses and instructional technology.
Much of this funding is not new, however. It is redirected from other areas. He also proposes increased funding to enhance the state’s technology infrastructure, a step to give teachers, principals, district staff and parents the information they need to help students learn more. In most of cases, however, he provides less funding than the commission recommends.
Next year’s proposed budget also adds $12.9 million to the Pre-K education. This will bring the Pre-K school year back to 180 days after having been reduced in previous years due to budget cuts. That also would restore teachers’ salaries, which have been reduced as a result of fewer school days.
In addition, the governor’s budget does not reflect the growing expectations of students and educators, most notably with the implementation of the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards, new tests tied to the Common Core and new evaluation systems for teachers. Implementing these effectively will require additional support and resources for student and educators.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog