Federal contribution to Gwinnett Schools is 6 percent, 3 percent for Cobb. Why does fed have so much say-so for so little stake?

A resident of north Cobb since 1992, John Morris received his M.A. in science, technology, and public policy from George Washington University and has spent the last 16 years designing and developing software for the retail industry.

Today, he writes about how the feds can really help Georgia schools.

By John Morris

Diana Flores/SCAD-Atlanta

Diana Flores/SCAD-Atlanta

Some would have you believe that in Georgia we are just a few new standards or a new curriculum away from excellence in education; that we just need to focus more on preschool education, emphasize STEM, encourage parent and community involvement and ensure college affordability.

There is nothing wrong with these ideas, but suggesting that such actions attack the problem at its root or that they alone can solve our education dilemma betrays a total lack of understanding of the fundamental challenge. That challenge is this: billions of dollars in state and local revenue just vanished when the recession hit in 2007.

That money never came back. Moreover, the reach of what revenue remains is further eroded by not only increasing enrollment, but also by rising health care and pension costs. The problem is not that we are not doing enough of the right things, after all we can’t even do what we use to do, it’s that we have a lot less money and ever-increasing costs.

When the recession hit in 2007, state and local tax revenues begin falling, not immediately, but within a year or so. Property values fell; folks were laid off; and people spent less. Reserves and a stimulus program propped up school revenues for a while, but when that money ran out, the schools finally felt the full weight of the shortfall.

Thousands of teachers were laid off; furlough days were added; salaries were cut; raises were delayed indefinitely; class sizes grew and grew; and state class size regulations became meaningless.

The recession finally ended in June of 2009, but Georgia’s revenue in 2014 continues to be substantially below what it was in 2009. Likewise, both Cobb and Gwinnett (the two largest districts in Georgia with a combined budget of $2.5 billion or more and 270,000 students) have yet to reach 2009 revenue levels after more than five years of recovery.

We cannot, however, look to the federal government to cover our revenue shortfalls. Aside from the fact that the federal government faces a massive deficit and is now carrying a $17 trillion debt, it just hasn’t contributed all that much to local education.

The federal government contributes only a small percentage of what is needed to educate our children in Georgia, only 6 percent for Gwinnett and 3 percent for Cobb.

Both Cobb and Gwinnett have experienced substantial increases in health care premiums. Henry has seen health care premiums for classified employees more that double since 2012. Furthermore, the employee and employer contributions to the Teacher Retirement System of Georgia have grown substantially since 2009.

Ultimately, what education needs most is a robust economy and manageable health care; given that, pensions will take care of themselves. The federal government does no one any favors by meddling in local education. We can handle that in Georgia. What we cannot do, at least not on our own, is create a robust economy and bring health care costs down.

Our federal government, however, seems to have forgotten that economic growth and education are tightly linked to one another, at least the part about robust economic growth funding education. They seem to have forgotten the cost of health care matters a lot in education.

We would all be better served if the federal government just focused on reducing economic uncertainty and lowered the cost of doing business rather than on education. Leave education to the locals. After all, we do pay for 95 percent of it.

All I’m saying is that a new education standard doesn’t amount to a whole heck of a lot when compared to the loss of billions of dollars in tax revenue. Really, it’s not all that complicated.

Reader Comments 0

67 comments
class80olddog
class80olddog

People should really read the 10th amendment to the US Constitution.  But since apparently no one does, here it is: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."


From the Wikipedia article: For this reason, Congress often seeks to exercise its powers by offering or encouraging States to implement national programs consistent with national minimum standards; a system known as cooperative federalism. One example of the exercise of this device was to condition allocation of federal funding where certain state laws do not conform to federal guidelines. For example, federal educational funds may not be accepted without implementation of special education programs in compliance with IDEA. Similarly, the nationwide state 55 mph (90 km/h) speed limit, .08 legal blood alcohol limit, and the nationwide state 21-year drinking age were imposed through this method; the states would lose highway funding if they refused to pass such laws


Note the part about IDEA - States do NOT have to comply if they do not accept Federal Funding. 


The issue is that the Feds make these laws and never fully fund them (unfunded mandates), so the State an Local level have to make up the difference.  As the author says - the Feds buy a lot of influence, even over local spending, with their 3-5% contribution.

VRSR
VRSR

Sorry this comment is not relevant to the Blog topic, but If I wanted to post to something like Twitter, I would have a Twitter account. The new website format is terrible.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

I notice that posters on all the blogs are complaining. This new "Comments column" seems particularly bad, with its 5-6 word column that takes forever to scroll through. There is speculation that all that empty space to the right will be filled with advertising. 


I wonder how many of us old familiars will put up with it...Little sense now of interacting with others....

EdUktr
EdUktr

@OriginalProf

I'm sure Maureen has nothing to do with the new format. 

And she's likely still despondent over election results—so you might want to go easy on her.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@EdUktr @OriginalProf 

Of course she doesn't have anything to do with this new format but, I have found, she's very nice about passing on our kvetching to the proper editor.

TheDeal2
TheDeal2

Also, for counties like DeKalb, there is plenty of money.  It is just being spent on the wrong thing.

TheDeal2
TheDeal2

Good grief, this is terrible!  Old format, please!

Starik
Starik

Bad idea. Please restore the old blog format.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

kind of off topic, but it's always easy to tell when the AJC web site folks push out the "new and improved" site to users - comments drop off to almost nothing.....

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@dcdcdc 

Because it's very hard to use!  I think it's designed for smartphone owners, but a lot of us still just use old-fashioned computers.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@dcdcdc 

Other than it takes too long to load and crashes your browser every two minutes, what's not to love?

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Educators complaining about Federal over-control of local education, delivered via the US Dept of Education.  And who was responsible for creation of the US dept of Education - none other than.....Jimmy Carter!!  


And then a large number of the educators wanted his grandson, who ran on "all education, all the time" (no specifics of course, just sound bites) as governor.


Is it just me who sees the irony here?  :)  

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Quidocetdiscit @dcdcdc  Especially when combined with their politics.  But maybe you missed all that these past few months.....:)


Personally, since most of GA saw through is BS (and saw the similarity between he and his granddad), I won't find it worth the rehash.

eTalker
eTalker

Are school districts required to take federal money?  If not, since it's such a small amount and you don't want any federal input then stop accepting the money.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@eTalker I suspect districts would STILL have to follow federal law, but there would not be even that little money to help.

liberal4life
liberal4life

@eTalker 

3% of $ 2.5 billion is $ 75 million, not a small amount to make up, is it?

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

While each individual federal mandate can look benign as it is passed or promulgated, the cumulative effect builds up like leaves on a forest floor -- except that leaves bio-degrade over time while government regulations never go away.


I'd like to see a full costing of individual mandates to see what's happened at both the high school and college levels.  Almost certainly, it's behind the metastasizing proportion of resources going to administrators and compliance rather than teachers and teaching.  





Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

There are several things the Feds could be doing to enhance education in this country - repealing NCLB and IDEA are two that come to mind.  Stemming the tide of MILLIONS of ILLEGAL ALIEN INVADERS would be a huge benefit as well.  While we're at it, how about stopping payments for dullards to procreate (welfare). 

See, there is a lot the Feds can do, it's just that nobody has the non-politically correct willpower to follow through.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Lee_CPA2 Well, now that the pubs are taking over, I guess we will see a big improvement.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@Wascatlady

Sadly, the Repugs main selling point is that they are not as bad as the Dimocrats.

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

One of the problems with state budget revenue streams is that like rivers and tides, it goes up and down.  We have to budget on the average and not call everything below the high water mark as deficient.  But at least Democrats do.

Funding has proven not to be the driving force.  Fulton, Dekalb, and APS have had higher per student funding than most other systems with poor results.  We need better targeted use of our funds, and the educracy in too many districts does a very poor job.  Maybe it is an impossible job in areas where the culture does not value education.  That will take a lot of lacking leadership to ever change.

Astropig
Astropig

@The_Centrist


Exactly. During the campaign we heard about "austerity cuts" that were exclusively the fault of the "govenor",as if the school systems somehow were exempt from sharing the pain of a struggling economy.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Astropig @The_Centrist Centrist, while I hope you statement about it maybe being impossible isn't the case, I have to admit it might be.


But imo that is all the more reason for giving the potentially few kids who value education, a chance to get out of that environment.


And it begs for elimination of the crazy idea that "all students should be sent to college".

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I agree with the thesis that standards changes will not solve our problems.  I also agree that we lost a lot of revenue during the time of the recession.  Not all of it was due to the recession, however, but due to tax breaks and giveaways.  When you favor one group or business, the rest of us have to take up the slack.


There is a proposal making the rounds that the feds and states and locals would have to disclose, openly, the costs of these giveaways, both in total and their impacts on taxes and revenues.  This is soundly opposed by most states, including Georgia.  If, for example, the state had to admit that it gave away $100,000 in revenue for each job it supported for a new plant, per year, wouldn't some eyes be opened? (or given Tuesday's vote, maybe not)  And if it found that the revenue per student in a county suffered a $1000 loss per child, in state funding, wouldn't that be significant?


Unfortunately, we need the federal government to see that we don't revert to the days when certain groups got the crumbs of education: blacks,women, the disabled, the poor.  Too many citizens don't remember those days, or, if they do, they were not among those groups and so think all was fine.



dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Wascatlady What's particularly humorous is how people who think this way talk about "tax giveaways".  For instance, the Caterpillar plant near athens.  People like WasCat would say that the govt "gave away millions in tax breaks".  As if that was money that was coming in, and the politicians "gave it away".


The reality is, it was empty land, producing no jobs and no tax money.  So the "supposed give away" wasn't  in reality a giveaway - well, except in the fairy land liberal mind of a few.  There was nothing coming in before...and if Cat hadn't been incented to come, there would've been...get this.... nothing coming in now.


But in the warped mind of Libs, thats somehow a "giveaway that the rest of us have to take up the slack".  Something that didn't exist before, somehow became a "giveaway".


Now..Maureen, how does this apply to education?  Because when the Cat plant went in, it brought jobs, and need for training.  Oh, and it also brought with it tax dollars - not only from the employees, but from their suppliers - money which funded schools.


But in the truly un-understandable world of liberal thinking, this was as "corporate giveaway".


And they wonder why the voters finally saw through their BS.....  too funny.

Mr_B
Mr_B

@dcdcdc @Wascatlady The idea that states should somehow have to compete against one another is in itself ludicrous. Cat has to put the plant somewhere, if they want to build it. How about getting them to build in Georgia because that's  where they can hire a workforce that doesn't have to be massively retrained, or because it's a good place for their employees to educate their own children? Does the rationale always have to be "We won't make you pay taxes like everyone else in the state."?

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Mr_B @dcdcdc @Wascatlady You call it a bug, I call it a feature.  Without competition, state govts would just jack up their taxes to fund their cronies, and buy votes.  


Competition is one of the things that makes our country (and our people) great.  And "Cat had to put it somewhere"?  Yeah, like Mexico?  That would've helped a lot.....


You (nor WASCAT) can't point to a single "government- private corporate giveaway" that didn't pay for itself many times over in tax money from both the employees and the suppliers who also moved here.  Not a single one.  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@dcdcdc @Wascatlady Guess my ole warped liberal mind wonders why the state government should be picking and choosing who to reward?  Especially when Preisdent Obama is taken to task for so doing?  Where is that old "free enterprise" the Rs like to tout?


OF COURSE it is a corporate giveaway!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@dcdcdc No, I can't point to one BECAUSE IT IS SHROUDED IN SECRECY.


I have seen somewhere a discussion of some of the companies that HAVE gotten "incentives" and yet NOT brought the numbers of jobs promised.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Wascatlady @dcdcdc yep, giving away something that didn't exist before - and making a huge amount of tax revenue, providing new jobs,  and growing our economy from it, is a TERRIBLE republican idea.


No wonder you (D)s got destroyed Tuesday.  You have zero idea how the economy works.


But please, please!!  Keep spouting your nonsense, so others see how incredibly inane it is.

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

Now, Maureen I know you will correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t what I’ve been saying for several years now on your Get Schooled Blog the same thing Mr. John Morris is now saying in your blog and that is “to get our public schools in order, they must be returned to LOCAL CONTROL.”What I’ve been preaching about for some time is, Number 1, fire Arne Duncan and abolish the Federal DOE and Number 2, Return our schools back to state control.This has got to happen…..Arne Duncan has and continues to ruin public education in our country and if we don’t stop him and the FEDS, they will complete the destruction.Mr. Morris, in my opinion, is a very wise and smart gentlemen. Of course, this opinion is based on him agreeing with me :>)

DirtyBird-Rise-up
DirtyBird-Rise-up

Since healthcare is a business in which corporate profits are first and foremost, we will need to have the government take over the healthcare industry. This is the only way for the majority of folks to get health care. The costs will continue to rise and more folks will be unable to afford the costs.


The 1 percenters are creating a service economy which does not pay much, not matter how much education you have there are only a certain number of decent paying jobs. Manufacturing will not come back because companies are always looking to maximizing profits, therefore we need a government takeover of the health care industry. Just hire the majority of the folks who are working in the industry for a smooth transition.

Jimmyliscious
Jimmyliscious

Health care costs are rising for everyone who are not receiving subsidies. Why not just come out and say it, the middle class needs to fork over more money to the greater community so eductors can have cheap insurance.

DirtyBird-Rise-up
DirtyBird-Rise-up

Yes, that economic uncertainty is stopping Apple from introducing new products and all the oil companies from during shale fracturing. Enough of the gloom and doom statements, that is why we have such a diversive nation right now. People repeating talking points about the economy while major corporations are sitting on 2 trillions dollars. Do you think they can hire a few people with that kind of money.


The GOP is in a controlling position in the Government so lets using the negative talking points, its time to move this country forward in a positive direction.


Schools do need assistance, they are educators not business analyst. You do need assistance on budgeting and signing contracts that are going to be beneficial to the schools.


Schools are at fault for allowing junk food and terrible food sources in the schools. And they wonder why the kids cannot sit still when you reward the kids with candy. How about a certificate?

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@DirtyBird-Rise-up Perhaps its even deeper than that.  Is it really right to expect a rambunctious, energetic young male to sit at a desk for hours on end, listening to a very unexciting lecture?  I suspect the most rudimentary of research would quickly say - NO.


But we are so stuck w/ the 1800's model, that change isn't allowed.  Just medicate them!!


Again...some incentive, via constant, unending pressure, has to be applied, or nothing will truly change.  And this isn't pressure directly on the teachers, who are working their tales off.  But rather on the eduacracy (starting with principals), causing them to support the changes that have to be made - incenting them to make the hard decisions.

redweather
redweather

@dcdcdc But if we don't get that "rambunctious, energetic young male to stay" on task, which typically means staying in one place for significant periods of time each day, can we really say we are preparing him for the rest of his life?  If you are an employer, what kind of employees do you want?  Those who stay on task and get the job done, I suspect.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@redweather @dcdcdc OK...how do I say this.  Have you ever watched said young male play a video game?  Is there anyone more "on task" than him?  


Perhaps its the "teaching approach/technique" that is the issue.......:)

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@redweather @dcdcdc now that's funny!  But seriously, video games sure seem like a perfect educational delivery medium.  Or outside/hands on learning. 


Unfortunately, our "cookie cutter - treat every kid the same" approach is killing these young men.

redweather
redweather

@dcdcdc People are typically very focused when having sex, but I don't recommend it as a technique for teaching algebra.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Wascatlady @dcdcdc Wife already did.  Best math teacher in her school.  Every semester, her class filled up, and the "crappy teacher's" classes got smaller.  


Such a wonderful incentive to be a great teacher....NOT!  Oh....and she was getting less pay because she was a professional hire...and had less seniority than the teachers who students did their best to avoid.


As I've said a number of times before...that's the absolute, #1, biggest issue that must be fixed.  And the ONLY way to fix it is to have the principals face loss of revenue if students leave their schools for better environments.