Advocates: Funding recommendations fall short of what’s needed to educate Georgia’s children

A subcommittee of the Governor’s Education Reform Commission examining how Georgia funds schools finalized recommendations today that will be considered by the full commission on Nov. 19.

While the recommended overhaul means more money for Georgia schools, it does not offer as much funding as schools would be getting if the current formula was faithfully followed. However, the state has never fully funded the Quality Basic Education Act.

As the AJC’s Ty Tagami reports today: (See story for more detail on recommendations.)

A committee working for Deal is recommending changes that would add $258 million to the education budget, a 3 percent increase over this year’s amount, more than $8 billion.

Teacher advocates and other observers lament that this proposal puts less into education than the current formula would, if the state funded it properly. The new formula would increase the state contribution to schools to $8.47 billion. That’s around a quarter of a billion dollars less than the existing formula requires. Georgia has been shorting its schools since 2003, by so-called “austerity” cuts.

Under the proposal, new teachers would be paid according to whatever pay-for-performance model each district selects. Districts would get the same amount for each teacher, except current teachers who would be grandfathered under the traditional pay scale. The traditional scale pays more for years of experience and credentials obtained.

Schools would get extra money to teach each gifted student, each “economically disadvantaged” student and each student whose native language is not English. However, each gifted student would be worth an extra $750 — more than each of the other two combined, committee member Lindsey Tippins said. The Republican state senator and former school board member from Cobb County said he didn’t think it cost that much to provide gifted services. He tried to shift that funding to all students in fourth and fifth grade, reasoning that those years are crucial for learning math. His proposal failed

Taifa Butler, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute executive director, and Claire Suggs, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute senior education policy analyst, submitted this brief to the commission on what they feel needs to be considered before the Legislature adopts a new funding formula.

From: Taifa Butler and Claire Suggs

To: The Education Reform Commission

Gov. Nathan Deal assigned you and your fellow members of the Education Reform Commission’s funding committee an ambitious task: to develop a funding formula that gives school district leaders flexibility to better use state money to improve student learning. Committee members are devoting much time and careful consideration to develop recommendations that fulfill the governor’s request.

Under the emerging formula, district leaders enjoy greater flexibility, which aligns well with the new district governance models: charter systems and strategic waivers school systems. District leaders tell us this is a positive change and express support for the reduced administrative demands of the new formula. These are valuable benefits.

The proposed formula, however, raises concerns because it continues austerity cuts, maintains reductions to transportation funding, and lacks evaluation.

Perpetual Austerity

The Quality Basic Education formula has been underfunded for 14 years. At their height, from 2010 through 2014, austerity cuts topped $1 billion annually. Districts coped by cutting the school calendar, furloughing teachers and increasing class sizes. They also scaled back or even eliminated programs like art, music and elective courses and many raised local property taxes. The cuts are one reason total per student funding in Georgia is $1,601 less than the national average according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data.

The General Assembly reduced austerity cuts the last two years. This partial restoration has allowed most districts to return to a 180-day school calendar and eliminate furlough days. Still, an austerity cut of $466 million remains in place this year. The proposed formula, if implemented and fully funded by the General Assembly this fiscal year, would add $234 million to state funding for districts. This is a welcome addition, but it leaves an austerity cut of more than $230 million in place.

As the base for the new funding formula, this builds future funding onto a diminished level. (A better comparison is earnings calculated under the QBE and the new formula for fiscal year 2017 as that includes student enrollment growth and adjustments for teacher training and experience. Those numbers aren’t available.)

We recommend the new funding formula provide districts with the full amount determined by the QBE. The state’s goals for students are significantly higher now than they were 30 years ago when the QBE was developed. Failing to provide at a minimum the amount called for under the QBE risks leaving students without the resources needed to attain these levels.

Transportation

Currently state funding for transportation is distributed to districts as a grant. Grant amounts are determined by a formula, which takes into account the specific transportation costs of each district. These costs vary widely from urban to rural districts. In the 2014 school year, districts spent an average of $457 per student for transportation. Forty districts spent $600 or more per student and four of them spent more than $1,000 per student. Busing students to and from school safely was above the state average in 116 of Georgia’s 180 districts.

On the other hand, 24 districts spent $350 or less to transport students. Like the QBE, the transportation grant formula has been underfunded for many years. In this school year, the state funds the operating cost component of the transportation formula at 17.78 percent. It is providing districts with $126 million instead of the $306 million the formula calculated. Districts must fill this gap with local tax dollars. Under the proposed formula, transportation funds will be moved into the base amount and will not be calculated separately. Including transportation money in the base gives an advantage to districts with below-average spending and hurts those with higher costs. It would also make the current funding shortfall permanent.

We recommend transportation dollars be calculated separately in the new funding model and remain outside the base student amount. We also recommend that the transportation formula be fully funded. This would allow districts to direct more of their local tax dollars to the classroom even though they would continue to pick up more than half the tab for getting students to and from school safely.

Evaluation

Many states conduct a review of the resources needed to enable students to reach specific outcomes when developing their school funding formulas. Such a review helps ensure that adequate funds are provided, which is critical. The majority of empirical research links funding with student outcomes. Ensuring economically disadvantaged students get sufficient resources is particularly important.

A significant new study found these students in particular benefit from increased levels of funding including improved high school graduation rates, higher wages, increases in family income as adults, and reductions in adult poverty. This study is relevant for Georgia as it has the ninth highest percentage of students participating in the federal free and reduced lunch program in the nation according to the most recent federal data.

An assessment of the cost of ensuring Georgia’s students reach the high standards the state has set was not a part of the process of developing the new formula. This leaves the question of whether or not the total amount—as well as the weighted amounts for each student category—is sufficient. This uncertainty is evident in the change to the amount allotted to economically disadvantaged students. The amount added to the base per student funding for these students in the current iteration of the proposed formula is $225, well below the $511 dedicated in an earlier version of the formula. It is unclear which, if either, is the right allotment.

Similar questions exist for the new teacher compensation model in the proposed formula. Teachers are the most influential school-based factor in student achievement. Ensuring districts are able to attract and retain effective teachers is critical.

We recommend a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of the new funding formula be undertaken after year three of implementation if it is approved by the General Assembly. This will allow legislators to reconsider total funding and revise weights as necessary to match students’ needs.

We also recommend the state continue to monitor the formula’s impact on district practice and student achievement in subsequent years. The current education funding formula held sway for 30 years. The next formula may be in place an equally long period. It is critical that it meets students’ needs in full.

Thank you for your service on the funding committee. Developing a new funding formula is a formidable task and we appreciate the time, effort, and careful consideration you are contributing.

 

Reader Comments 0

38 comments
anothercomment
anothercomment

No to only figure out what exactly will be the criteria for Gifted if it comes with $750 per student more funding. Both my kids had well above the 90% standardized test scores but didn't make it in. The oldest was screened out on creativity and they would never give me a straight answer on what the creativity test was. Her teachers in K, 1, 2, all made pleas that she belonged. Of course, I worked full time or 60 plus hrs a week and couldn't be one of those PTA board moms ( funny how all their children made it). Also, funny how my child has a 3.8 plus GPA as a JR. In a STEM college major. Her elementary friends that were in Target have lets see 1.) one of only 2 white girls that did not graduate form high school, 2. Was kicked out of a private for drugs., 3. Only a C student at a Private in Buckhead. Etc... Another mother comes up to my daughter at her part time job and says I am so proud of you and I wish my daughter was 1/2 the student as You.

My second daughter also was not allowed in target in Cobb , but then somehow was awarded an Obama Presidential awarded based on her national scores ( the principal was choking handing it her. Then we moved to Fulton and their version of the gifted they told me my child got a 4 on motivation. I said you have got to be joking. How can a child who has scored a 99% in Math several times and never below 85 in any section with an IQ of over 140 have a score of 4 on motivation. She is currently self publishing a book on the internet an her first 6 chapters have 19,000 readers, and she was ranked in the 13 most popular in in genre is writing as a high school freshman. She is at a small private school. She just decided to publish fill out the outlines she started for her class.I think that is motivated. It also fits the type of work that the new school consortium wants students to create digital lockers of their work starting as freshman. She just doesn't fit the classic 4 year double varsity sport, class president, year book, Christian Mission trip college builder student profile.

Then my biggest beef is the massive fraud with the free and reduced lunch program. I have personally witnessed adminstraTors telling every black and Hispanic parent to fill it out, leave the income blank or under the 22k. I have watched people get out of Merccedes 2 door coupes ( 70k cars with red bottom shoes, designer handbags, nails, weaves, I- phones fill out the applications, decked to the nines while their kids are playing lfootbal. Kids have $300 nikes, I see them at GameStop etc... How can 76% plus of the students in Sandy Springs be on Free and Reduced lunch when the cut off is $22k a year. The cheapest house is $500k. You can't find a rental house under $1800-2200. Even the worse apartments are $1200. Food stamps already account for three meals per day for each family member. Getting free lunch and free breakfast while obtaining SNAP is double dipping. We need to untie the determination for who is underprivileged based upon qualification for Free and Reduced lunch. If we do not then we at least need to do a 100% audit of the applications and prosecute for fraud and jail those who falseify the documents. Especially the administrators who encourage and fill in the amounts later.

I don't believe that their should be any additional funds for ESOL. If your child is not ready for school speaking English the language of the country you the parent should pay for it, if I were to go to another country I would have to put my child in a dual language school and pay myself. Of my child would have to sink or swim. By the way my own mother did not speak English as her first language even though her parents immigrated legally through Ellis island and she was born ten months. When she started school my grandmother declared they were in America and they would now speak English only. She said they rapidly learned.

jaggar1
jaggar1

@anothercomment Totally agree about the free breakfast and lunch program. They have the Hispanics and blacks fill out free meal applications because they approve 99% of them. If you can get a certain percentage of free apps. approved, you become a Title I school and receive more funding. Most of those children throw away 50% of the food every day. They have money to purchase ice cream though. We need to stop the program altogether. The public should not be feeding your children. If you can't afford to have children and feed them, don't have children. The food that gets thrown out is appalling. ESOL children's parents refuse to learn the language. They come to school when they feel like it, pick and choose when they want to do homework, and  move every year from school to school. It is killing our school systems. These are the children who will dictate if a teacher deserves an increase or to keep their job.

madteacher
madteacher

The recommendations of this committee are so ridiculous I don't know where to begin. However, it is obvious that it is a done "Deal" and schools, students and teachers will be forced to make do with less as usual. I am so tired of reading people on this blog say that all teachers do is whine about the money. Yes we want more money. I haven't had a raise in 9 years. My salary is less than it was six years ago and I am one year from retirement with a Master's degree, serve as the Department Chair, work on a county committee, and probably work 60 hours a week on a good week. At least two weekends a month are occupied with school functions, and nights are often spent emailing with students to help them with homework. If I'm lucky I may get to have a personal life one night a week. Every waking moment is spent thinking about how I can turn something into a teachable moment for my students because teaching isn't a job..,it is an art. And to treat teachers and pay teachers as if we were all equal is the most insulting thing I can possibly think of. It's taken me years to perfect my craft and I work at it constantly. And to evaluate teachers based on student results when we are ham-strung with no resources in the classroom and 38 students in a science lab is just beyond belief. I would challenge any person out there to step into our shoes. You wouldn't last a week. That is why 47% of teachers are leaving the profession in the first three years. It's a jungle out here and there is no support.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

If you are "gifted" you should be able to learn in a lecture room of 200. You should be given higher level instruction to process with your "giftedness" to get you ready for the real world.


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

How much is enough? 


Please correct me if I'm wrong - I think I read that state and local funding in GA provides about $9K per year or $50 per day per public school student - $250 per week. 


How does that compare to the cost, services and quality of daycare for preschool children?




CSpinks
CSpinks

@AvgGeorgian I think the average student per annum cost is well above $9K once federal monies are included.


A local school system spends more than $9K per student per year before more than $3K per year in federal money is included.


Folks, these programs are much better for a few greedy adults than they are for our many needy kids.


GaPubEd, top to bottom, needs rigorous, disinterested auditing by out-of-state entities.


Not only are our kids being screwed but so are We, the People, who foot the bill.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

I wish those guys in teaching were smarter! One day of state wide blue flu and things change immediately. Talk about kicking the bullies on this blog and in the legislature in the eggs! 

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

When I saw "advocates" and "Georgia Budget and Policy Institute" I knew the substance of the article - send more money and all will be fixed. GPBI has never seen a budget it views as adequate. The only usual suspects missing are the teacher's unions.


redweather
redweather

@BurroughstonBroch  "The new formula would increase the state contribution to schools to $8.47 billion. That’s around a quarter of a billion dollars less than the existing formula requires. Georgia has been shorting its schools since 2003, by so-called “austerity” cuts."


The quoted passage above is what I got from this article.  




CSpinks
CSpinks

On the subject of money, Deep Throat remains the expert. He advised to "follow the money."


To that end, We Georgians should demand that comprehensive financial evaluations of The Twin Towers operation as well as of each LEA be performed by competent, out-of-state auditing firms whose reports would be submitted to the AJC for dissemination to us.

redweather
redweather

@CSpinks So just how do you propose that voters get the state government, particularly the legislature and the governor's office, to agree to this?

CobbParent
CobbParent

The foundation was established by Jeb Bush after he left office.  The foundation has received donations from Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, and Eli Broad, as well as Connections Education, a subsidiary of Pearson PLC, and Amplify , a subsidiary of NewCorp.


Hillary's Emails
Hillary's Emails

What falls short are the reforms so long overdue: more choice, more competition.

And why isn't the total per pupil expenditure given?

class80olddog
class80olddog

Mo money, mo money, mo money - that is all teachers want - with that, all problems are solved

Falcaints
Falcaints

@class80olddog There are no teachers on this committee, like always we are not invited to sit at the table.

class80olddog
class80olddog

The teachers are complaining about the committee findings. Extra money is not enough

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@class80olddog I think most teachers would trade a raise for the kinds of things you espouse--kids on grade level, kids at school, kids held to appropriate behavior standards.


Of course, since they sacrificed since several years BEFORE the downturn, catching up on pay now that things are hunky-dory according to our governor's bid for reelection claimed, would be appropriate.


And, before we disparage the schools for their work, let's TRY funding them properly (based on QBE) for as many years as they have been underfunded and see what happens.


I don't think the results will be miraculous, but it would be a fairer test of the "schools' work" if that happened.  And it would give our legislature some time to actually find out (if they are willing to learn) what is needed for a state so full of poor (financially and other-wise)kids as Georgia, and perhaps time for appropriate measures of accountability to be devised for ALL those involved in educating our children (teachers, administrators, parents, children, communities, local, state and federal agencies, the courts, DFACS), along with policies that will "incentivize" such responsibility.

Batgirl2
Batgirl2

I'm still not back up to full pay.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Batgirl2 Well, I am retired but to find my two years of highest pay, TRS had to go back 8 years!  And, of course, I never got to see the shift back to 180 days of school.  You might not believe how much that can have an effect on your retirement money.

dg417s
dg417s

@class80olddog It's not "mo money" that I want - it's the money that is owed that we need. Senator Fran Millar spoke to teachers back in February and told us basically get used to this new normal (the austerity). That's not looking out for Georgia's best interest.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@class80olddog 

It's pretty simply! Stop whining about paying people. Yes, teachers should be paid more money and respect! You think you should be paid to work, so do they! If you think their life is so much better and the pay is so great. Head down to the nearest college, apply and get to work! 

jaggar1
jaggar1

@JBBrown1968 @class80olddog Funny you say that, because years ago they were allowing anyone with a degree to teach on a provisional until they earned their degree with some classes. We had three of those "business executives" that came in thinking they knew so much more and would change the world. They were all gone after the first two years stating it didn't pay enough for the hours and problems. LOL

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@dg417s @class80olddog Legislators generally don't care about "those " children.  Perhaps the AJC could look into where legislators' children or grandchildren go to school and report back to us?!  See if they are in traditional public schools, private schools, charters, or magnet/special requirements schools.


Serious request.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Already out with a comment on the proposed new Georgia school funding formula is the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which has a familiar name now helping it get out its message in Georgia – former Nathan Deal spokesman Brian Robinson.

 “The school funding improvements recommended today by Governor Deal’s Education Reform Commission would empower schools, educators and parents to put their money where their students’ needs are,” said Ryan Mahoney, the foundation’s regional advocacy director. “The commission’s plan would successfully modernize a 30-year-old formula that no longer reflects the requirements of today’s classroom. This moves Georgia away from a one-size-fits-all approach to a custom fit that focuses on the advancement of each and every student. The recommendations of the commission accurately reflect the will of Georgians, who voiced majority support in our poll for changing to a more flexible, more transparent, more student-based approach.” 

The Foundation for Excellence in Education advocates for student-based reform efforts nationally. Its guiding principles are they all children can learn, all children should learn a year’s worth of knowledge in a year’s time and all children will achieve when education is organized around the singular goal of student success.

CobbParent
CobbParent

@Falcaints @MaureenDowney

The foundation was established by Jeb Bush shortly after his tenure as Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.It has received donations from Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, and Eli Broad, as well as Connections Education, a subsidiary of Pearson PLC, and Amplify , a subsidiary of NewCorp.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@MaureenDowney 

I agree with most of the ideas put forth in your post by the FEE, however for them to believe that "all children should learn a year's worth of knowledge in a year's time. . ." is unrealistic and not consistent with educational research. 

The wide range of ability levels and of skills previously mastered by students do not seem to be in the consciousness of these businessmen and women who are interested in improving public education.  Nor, would one expect them to have that kind of refined understanding of educational processes.  Too bad that they have so much hubris, in general, that they appear not to be capable of seeing their own weaknesses relative to developing a sound educational model for educating all of our students to success.  Understanding that various students will require various time allotments to absorb the same concepts with mastery is critical to improving public education  Education with a depth of understanding and awareness is not within Jeb Bush's background.