Georgia trails national average in school spending. Should we invest more?

Many issues in education are open to debate, but none more than school spending. It would seem a straightforward question: Do we spend too much or too little on our schools? 

One of the reasons for the array of opinions is that you can’t determine whether spending is adequate until you answer this question: What do you want schools to do?

In the last 30 years, we have asked schools to do a lot more, including educate all children to a standard once expected of only a few. The belief was most students didn’t need to be college ready because they were bound for the local mill, family farm or factory job. Many of those options no longer exist and students need more sophisticated skills to survive in a knowledge-based economy.

Now that we are asking schools to educate every student to higher standards, are we funding them to that end?

In a new report, the U.S. Census finds Georgia spends less than the national average on education and ranks 38th in the country in school spending. In 2014, Georgia spent $9,202 per pupil, nearly $2,000 below than the national average of $11,009. (See the AJC news story here.)

New York leads the nation, spending $20,610 per student, 87 percent above the national average. At the other end, Utah spends $6,500.

According to the Census report:

Per pupil spending for the nation was $11,009, a 2.7 percent increase from 2013. This was the largest increase in per pupil spending since 2008 when there was a 6.1 percent increase from the year prior.

Per pupil spending includes gross school system expenditure for instruction, support services and noninstructional functions including direct expenditure for salaries, employee benefits, student transportation, building maintenance, purchased property and other services and supplies.

Following New York, the highest spending per pupil in 2014 was in the District of Columbia at $18,485, Alaska at $18,416, New Jersey at $17,907 and Connecticut at $17,745.

After Utah, the states spending the least per pupil were Idaho at $6,621, Arizona at $7,528, Oklahoma at $7,829 and Mississippi at $8,263.

Of the 100 largest school systems by enrollment, Maryland had four of the 10 public school districts with the highest current spending per pupil. This marks the seventh year in a row Maryland has had four schools in the top 10 in this category. The top five school districts for per pupil spending were Boston City Schools at $21,567, New York City School District at $21,154, Anchorage School District in Alaska at $15,596, Baltimore City Schools in Maryland at $15,564  and Howard County Schools in Maryland at $15,358.

  • State governments contribute the greatest share of public school system funding at $288.6 billion, or 46.7 percent of total revenue.

  • Revenue raised from local sources amounted to $276.2 billion, or 44.7 percent of public elementary-secondary funding, while the federal government contributed $52.9 billion, or 8.6 percent of public elementary secondary funding.

  • The $276.2 billion schools received from local sources included $239.0 billion from taxes and local government appropriations.

  • Public school systems receiving the highest percentage of revenues from the federal government were Louisiana with 15.3 percent, Mississippi with 14.9 percent, South Dakota with 13.9 percent, Arizona with 13.3 percent and New Mexico with 12.9 percent.

  • Public school systems receiving the lowest percentage of revenues from the federal government were Connecticut with 4.0 percent, New Jersey with 4.2 percent, Massachusetts with 4.8 percent, New York with 5.5 percent and New Hampshire with 5.5 percent.

In her Georgia Budget & Policy Institute blog, senior education policy analyst Claire Suggs writes:

Gov. Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission could have outlined a plan to close this gap and boost investment in our students when it developed its recommendations last year, but that didn’t happen. Money matters when it comes to student achievement, especially for low-income students. More than 60 percent of Georgia’s students are low-income, the fifth highest percentage in the nation.

When states invest more in low-income students, they do better in school and in life. A recent study found funding increases for low-income students can

  • Increase high school completion rates
  • Raise adult earnings
  • Raise annual family incomes
  • Reduce incidence of poverty

A second new study shows student achievement goes up when states’ investment in students does. These studies confirm earlier research linking greater financial resources with improved student outcomes and refute the oft-repeated refrain, it’s not how much you have, and it’s how you spend it. The way districts spend money matters but they have to have enough to spend in the first place.

 

Reader Comments 0

62 comments
MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Speaking of school funding, this came from APS this morning: 


As required by Georgia law, the Atlanta Board of Education will host three public hearings to allow citizens an opportunity to express their opinions on the district’s proposed tax rates for the FY17 Budget.  While the total millage rate is recommended to remain flat, the proposed rate is considered an increase in property taxes due to the newly assessed value of taxable property within the Atlanta Public Schools district. 

Currently, the district’s millage rate includes a General Fund Millage Rate (Maintenance & Operations) of 21.64 mills, and a Debt Service Millage Rate of 0.10 mills, totaling 21.74 mills. During the recent budget process for fiscal year 2017, the Atlanta Board of Education proposed reducing the Debt Service Millage to .025 mills and increasing the M&O Millage to 21.715 mills. The total millage is recommended to remain at 21.74 mills.

The flat total millage rate is a reflection of a trend the Atlanta BOE has established in APS. It has remained flat at 21.74 since FY2012.

Based on the new assessments, the district is expected to receive growth from increased property assessments in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Georgia law requires that a “rollback millage rate” be computed to produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred.  Using this required calculation, APS will levy property taxes at 1.12 percent over the “rollback millage rate.”

Public hearings will be held at Atlanta Public Schools, Center for Learning and Leadership (130 Trinity Avenue) on the following dates:

·        Thursday, June 23, 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

·         Thursday, June 30, 6 p.m. (Final adoption of millage to follow the hearing)

Johnny Knight
Johnny Knight

HELL NO. We should let parents that want to spend money on education get a TAX BREAK and use that money to send their children t good schools. That would lessen the numbers in the Socialist Government Public schools and then maybe the teachers could spend more time with the low income and don't give a crap parent Students more time to get them to learn. That is a win win. less money to government school but less students to need the money.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The republican government in GA could require that a certain high percentage be spent in the classroom but for some reason, refuses to do so.

Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian


Because it ends up in the pockets of the likes of Beverly Hall, wildy overpaid administrators,corrupt maintenance supervisors and assorted other hangers-on that misdirect,misspend and generally treat the state as a giant ATM with no withdrawal limit. The state can mandate this and mandate that,but the money is ultimately spend and allocated by local school boards.So why are you laying all of this at the feet of the legislature or governor? By far,the largest part of the state budget is already spent on education.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian

It can be required to be spent IN THE CLASSROOM - sorry for shouting - did not know how to get my point across otherwise. The state requires certain types of funds be spent in certain ways and audits the spending.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian There is not a lot of discretionary funding in school budgets. 

In Georgia, on average, 85 percent of daily operating budget pays salaries and benefits, leaving 15 percent to operate and maintain our schools.

Here is a good summary from GBPI on the 2016 budget increase in education spending and what it will fund:

• The proposed budget for the 2016 fiscal year adds $549 million to current state funding for public schools through the Georgia Department of Education. Nearly 51 percent, or $280 million, is intended to reduce the current austerity cut of $746 million.

• About $248 million, or 45 percent of the total increase, covers expected student enrollment growth, standard increases in teacher salaries, rising retirement costs and other routine increases.

• Other increases include $8.9 million in supplemental funds for state commission charter schools, $2.4 million for 20 positions at the education department for school improvement, and $1 million for testing.

• Additional money for public schools is provided through the student achievement office: $10.4 million for a statewide professional development initiative and $2.5 million for the Innovation Fund, a competitive grant program.

 • Proposed state funding per student in next school year will be about 4.4 percent lower in inflation-adjusted dollars than it was in 2002, the last year before the austerity cut was imposed.

class80olddog
class80olddog

You talk about education spending as an "investment".  What kind of investment is it when you increase your spending 400% and receive absolutely no payback?  Sounds like the Federal Government.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@class80olddog


How would you measure the value of investment in K-12 in GA? What is a baseline for adequate funding for the children of GA?

Jo Mi
Jo Mi

Yes, under the condition that those additional funds make it to schools and classrooms.

class80olddog
class80olddog

So looking at the top three states in spending - New York is 38th in the nation on NAEP 8th grade scores, Alaska is 41st, and DC is dead last.  Utah spends the least and is 9th in the nation.  Still think there is a correlation between spending and performance?  Look at DeKalb County and APS, who spend the most per student in Georgia - how proficient are their students?  We spend FOUR times what we spent in the sixties per student (adjusted for inflation) and our NAEP scores have barely budged.  Perhaps we are just spending the money ON THE WRONG THINGS!!!!!!  I have made this argument a hundred times and still the answer is "mo' money, mo' money, mo' money"!

Another comment
Another comment

Utah is white, white and devoid of fresh across the border immigrants who don't speak the language.

DublDawg
DublDawg

I would also add that any school district in GA could easily come up with more money for the classroom if it only would slaughter the sacred cows and eliminate the boundaries.  Compulsory attendance and taxpayer funded schools originated for one purpose--to educate and prepare a more capable workforce.  The system lost focus early on and became a bunch of other things, including a social center and purveyor leisure and recreation.  Even a public transportation system.


The school systems could cut many bureaucrats that have been added through the years of new mandates, cut recreation and leisure like interscholastic sports, dances, and all the coaches, staff, and expense of facilities that go with them.  Then re-direct that money to teacher, para-professionals, class supplies, books, labs, shops, etc.  The students and the taxpayers would benefit tremendously by simply refocusing the schools on their intended purposes.


Our economic competitors abroad are more attuned to that, and the young people that are participating in high school level competitive sports are doing it through clubs and community associations.  Their schools do not serve as farm systems for the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, etc.  They tend to turn far fewer dolts with empty baskets of skill sets than US schools. 


Before we talk about spending more money on education in GA and the US, we ought to be talking about the frivolty, extraneous spending, and outright waste on things that do not impart education or add to education.  Get rid of all that and re-direct the money and see what difference that makes.

CVincentGreen
CVincentGreen

@DublDawg There needs to be an outlet provided for students to get some physical exercise (P.E. class) or we are faced with even more obesity problems because the students are not going to exercise at home.  I am a classroom teacher in an economically disadvantaged area and I believe that removing sports and extracurricular activities from schools will cause more dropouts and possibly increase the achievement gap that we currently experience.  I understand the concern about frivolous spending, but the students have to have an outlet to breathe.  


To expound quickly on the increase in dropouts if sports and extracurricular activities are removed from schools, sports actually help us to keep economically disadvantaged students interested in school.  There are a number of examples where athletics kept a student interested to performing well while in middle/high school and they have gone on to receive advanced degrees and have gone on to become successful business people, but it all began with athletics or a club or some other extracurricular activity that kept them coming to school.

DublDawg
DublDawg

Invest?


Everything that the govt spends money on is an expense, plain and simple.  There are priorities to be set among that spending, and education should be one of them.  But it is true in education as all spending that there is a point of diminishing returns.  No meaningful discussion can be had until that is acknowledged. The US spends about twice per capita on education compared to its economic competitors abroad for lesser results. 


All that one has to do is look at the great waste of North Atlanta High School on Northside Parkway.  The City of Atlanta system sunk a fortune into the old IBM property, and it is the most expensive school in GA history and one of the most expensive ever in the US.  It costs a lot to operate.  But the graduation rate is only about 50% of those eligible and classified as seniors.  Money has not bought results, and proves that it cannot be thrown at a problem in greater amounts and expect a different result.  It's true that NAHS has an IB program and can turn out some good graduates, but the average cost per grad is crazy because so much is expended on those that never finish or get a meaningful diploma.    


We need to re-examine the whole idea of what constitutes an acceptable education from K-12, what a school should look like, and how it should function.  No Child Left Behind undermined vocation education.  We should reject the idea that every student should be on an academic track after junior high, and look at what European and other nations do with vocational training.  The educational system here has created a terrible mismatch of grads and skill sets versus the real world demand.  Even at the height of the recession there was high unemployment, a  surfeit of grads from high school and college with no jobs and no prospects, but about 1.5 MM jobs in the US unfilled due to a dearth of skilled person to fill them.


The idea that everyone should go to college is just plain nuts.  Only about 25% of the jobs in the US require a college degree, and somewhere around 29% of the population has a degree.  Creating more supply of college grads will not increase the demand.  Thus, it is senseless to structure a high school curriculum to push everyone towards college from an economic, real world prospect standpoint.  Further, it is obvious to anyone that has been on a high school campus that everyone is not equally motivated and the input is not the same.  Thus, the output can never be the same across a class. 


Spending money on education that is not valuable to the student or to the marketplace is not wise, and it is not an investment.  It is a deadweight expense.  The holders of high school diplomas that supposedly completed an academic curriculum but in reality got social promotions to get them out and avoid the burdens that go with giving students failing grades got nothing for their time and trouble and neither did the taxpayers.  They and the taxpayers suffer from the waste and everyone would have been better off with a reality based educational system that put them on a good vocational track and taught them something that is in-demand.  It is the same with a lot of college grads that have pointless degrees in fields not in demand from low tiered colleges.  


How many help wanted ads have you seen lately for college grads with majors in anthropology, photography, art history, architectural studies, womens studies, jewish studies, african american studies, philosophy, sociology, social work, etc., etc.?


The vo-tech schools in GA are now heavily populated by college grads--about 30-40% of the students in the big vo-tech schools like Crescent already have a college degree.  Predictably, the degrees are silly ones from schools not known for academic rigor.  And many of those degreed students are in default on student loans.  I read a stat the other day that only about 43% of student loans are being paid timely.  What a waste of time and money and a senseless burdens on the debtors and their credit history, as well as the taxpayers that will ultimately bear the expense.


Indeed, this country needs a very serious re-imagination of what constitutes an "education," and for whom, and what the educational system and process should be.  The economy in the US and worldwide have changed drastically, in large part to foolish trade and economic policies, but our educational policies have not changed in a manner to reflect the new realities.

MaryWalker
MaryWalker

If Governor Deal had spent more time working on adequate funding for schools, he would not have had time to engineer the mechanism by which he will annex schools that are "failing" for his so-called Opportunity School District. Our children will be at the mercy of  state approved charter school models, 

which can lead to private for-profit entities owning schools bought and paid for by local tax payers. Because the state ed folks are so enamored of the private charter school model, they could not be bothered to work on public school funding that actually works. Remember the Latin Academy debacle? This is what happens when no one is minding the store.  

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryWalker


Charter schools are public schools. You have no idea what you're talking about here.


The people in Floyd County stole six times as much money as the Latin Academy heist and I'm still waiting on the headline in this space about how that theft should be a warning to taxpayers about what can happen when there's no accountability for status quo systems,or indeed,any mention of it at all.

Astropig
Astropig

Throwing more money into the pot simply means that there will be more for unaccountable public school weasels to steal-Like in Floyd County,where they have (allegedly) heisted over 4 million bucks-


http://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/10-arrested-for-stealing-4-million-from-floyd-county-schools/333581318 


...and in The Big A,where the shoe leather reporters have uncovered some doozies-


http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-education/thousands-of-dollars-from-atlanta-students-goes-mi/nqnMh/


If there's enough krinkle sloshing around out there now for these people to steal it, we're probably not going to get better results by spending more.



Astropig
Astropig

@JBBrown1968 @Astropig



Yippie yi-yo-ki-yay! When we have the same coverage here for status quo,zip code school theft, I won't be needed.I can ride 'Ol Trigger straight to the glue factory.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Astropig @JBBrown1968 You and trigger are the same team that allows schools to have athletic stadiums that rival colleges and no text books. Your line of thinking is exhausting and you are not needed. You have no solutions, just opinion.  

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

I have a question. How much per week is good quality daycare? My research shows about $5k per child for GA. I have no firsthand knowledge. Is that about right?

Another comment
Another comment

14 years ago I last paid for a quality daycare ITP for a 2 year old and it was $200 per week. That was $10,000 per year.

The going rate for Nanny's is $17-18 /hr plus. Today. Then they take the children to 1/2 day programs that are at least $5k a year.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Waste is in the eyes of the beholder, frequently.  So saying, too much money is spent on "snoopervision" and administration.  We need more boots on the ground, not people who spend a lot of time going out to lunch, to meetings,  and telling others how to do their jobs.


I am waiting for someone to say that people should not have kids they cannot afford, while simultaneously saying that they are entitled to the money of others to pay for private school for their own children.


Anyone who is over 50 probably cannot imagine how different class time is now from how it was when they were in school.  The things that are commonplace were never seen in the 50s and 60s.  But schools are expected to not only fix messed up kids, but also take the whole class, without effort on their part, to higher and higher levels of achievement.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Wascatlady


The legislature could easily fix administrative bloat by requiring a high percentage of money be spent in the classroom. The legislature refuses to do this.

Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian @Wascatlady


Solving a problem is not "easy" just because you say it is.We all wish that we could just push the Easy Button and solve these problems in a hurry,but it really doesn't work that way.There's not a system in existence that can't be gamed by the cunning,the dishonest and the cynical. Requiring a certain percentage of money to be spent in a certain way simply guarantees that the jacklegs will find their way to that place and burrow in.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady People should not have kids that they cannot afford.  And I don't want to take anyone else's money, I just want to able to take the money that would be spent on my child anyway and apply it to educating him/her in a better school system.

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

Beginning in 2008, school districts were required to spend at least 65% of their budget on direct instructional expenses.  There is an option of increasing the instructional budget by 2% until the district reaches 65%.   Sure, districts could cut central office administrators and support, but somebody has to do the paperwork that the legislature has already put in place.







kaelyn
kaelyn

It's necessary for the issue of waste to be addressed before the question of need is asked. Throwing money willy nilly at schools is rarely the answer (I know firsthand that several schools in my county scramble at the last minute to spend Title I money without any real thought given to how that money could best be used to support students).

It's really hard for me to believe that Georgia doesn't already have enough resources to adequately fund schools. Waste, mismanagement, theft, and allocation all seem to be bigger issues than the amount spent per pupil.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@kaelyn


Likewise, your employer should see if you are wasting money on restaurants, coffee, candy, unneeded trips. fancy clothes, etc. before wasting customers' payments on a raise for you. Basic assumption is that you don't need more money.

kaelyn
kaelyn

The difference is it's not my supervisor's business what I do with my money. I get a raise based on my performance and how well my company does financially. The money used to fund schools comes from taxpayers. I most certainly do have the right and responsibility to demand that that money is used efficiently.

I actually believe that teachers should get COLA raises each year. I believe that every child should be educated in a clean, climate controlled building where safety is a priority. I KNOW that there is so much waste, mismanagement, and fraud taking place in my county, DeKalb, that simply throwing money at the problem won't fix much.

FredinDeKalb
FredinDeKalb

How can teachers get annual COLA raises if the country is experiencing a recession?  Furlough days were used as a means to balance many school budgets during the GREAT Recession.  Many commercial companies slowed down on salary increases during that time also.  If you know a way to get around this, please share it.







kaelyn
kaelyn

I don't know a way around salary increases during recessions. You are absolutely correct that when the money isn't there raises aren't possible. However, even when we were in a recession several ousted metro Atlanta superintendents were being paid for jobs they no longer held. Millions of dollars were unaccounted for, and DeKalb County schools refused to act on an outside review that found they could do without several hundred administrative employees.

If they can't be trusted with what they already have, how can they be trusted with more?

FredinDeKalb
FredinDeKalb

Who were the ousted metro Atlanta superintendents that were paid for jobs they no longer held?  You do know that when people have contracts, the only way one gets out of paying for a separation is if there was a violation of the terms (Though sports is different, did you notice the Braves players that were released must still be paid in accordance to their contract?)  Have you heard of due process?

What outside review found that several HUNDRED administrative jobs in DeKalb Schools could be done without?  Can you share or point to it?  If you got that information from the old DSW2 website, please note that it provided a LOT of incorrect and unsubstantiated information.



kaelyn
kaelyn

The information came from the AJC and both Lewis and Atkinson received money when they were no longer performing any job duties. Atkinson got over $100k. You can talk about due process all you want, but it's WASTE. There is no justification for paying a failed superintendent an outrageous amount of money to leave a job while teachers who show up to work daily don't get raises. The superintendent salaries, allowances, and perks are more than incentive enough. It's beyond ridiculous that their contracts include "takeaway money" when they inevitably jump ship after a couple of years.

http://m.ajc.com/news/news/local/report-dekalb-schools-have-too-many-administrators/nQQTY/

FredinDeKalb
FredinDeKalb

@kaelyn  Obviously you didn't read the full article or know background about that study.  The school district had many itinerant employees that worked in the schools however were assigned to the Central Office.  As they reviewed the job functions closer, they realized the assignments did not reflect what those persons actually did. The net of this is that many of those employees were reassigned to the schools. 

You may also need to study contract law.  In both cases, Lewis and Atkinson left before their contracts ended however it was a mutual separation.  In that case, you negotiate a settlement that is equitable for all parties.  This is standard operating procedure, not just for superintendents but for other leadership positions also (Again, sports provides a great example of contracts).  If you don't like it, try offering superintendents annual renewal contracts where they become free agents at the end of each school year.  You then run the risk of them leaving thus going through a hiring process each year.  




AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

If Georgians pay less than the national average cost for housing, does than mean they are living in substandard housing and need to start paying more?

Of course not.  This comparison of average expenditures by state is meaningless.

Astropig
Astropig

@AlreadySheared


Agree-There are way,way to many inputs and variables to compare states education spending and make the numbers meaningful.This is just another hardy perennial story churned out by the George Soros front group (GBPI) that we will see again next year and the next and the next...

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @AlreadySheared

So funny. "There are way,way to many inputs and variables to compare states education spending and make the numbers meaningful". And here I thought you were a businessman. The problem is complicated but solvable. Businesses solve these types of problems routinely. I hope medical researchers don't read this blog and get discouraged by by "to[sic] many inputs and variables".

CSpinks
CSpinks

How well is GaPubEd spending the money it currently receives? This is a question which should be answered before legislators consider budgeting more funds for our state's public education system. External audits, anyone?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@CSpinks The Governor's commission on education tasked with making financial recommendations to the Governor was prohibited from trying to determine how much it should cost to adequately educate a Georgia student.

ChessMaster
ChessMaster

@CSpinks External audits cost money and what standard would you use? The normal way an audit is done is to compare performance against a standard. This article shows that this was done and Georgia is lacking in that it is attempting to educate its students using fewer dollars per student. We are also scoring lower (another form of audit, testing). How much evidence do you need?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@AvgGeorgian @CSpinks If you asked how much money it would take to make sure that 100% of APS students mastered the subjects to get into college, the result would be : INFINITY.  You can't teach those who do not want to learn, no matter how hard you try.