Education funding: How much is enough for schools educating the poorest children?

When an abandoned south DeKalb apartment complex shut down in September, one elementary school found 50 of its students had lived there and needed help. (AJC Photo)

Amid holiday travels, you may have missed the excellent piece by my AJC colleague Ty Tagami on whether the extra state dollars proposed for poor Georgia students are enough to make a difference.

The story appears in Thursday’s print AJC, but can also be read on MyAJC.com.

Tagami frames the spending question against the backdrop of DeKalb’s Flat Shoals Elementary. The south DeKalb school would have been a candidate for state takeover had voters approved Gov. Nathan’s Deal proposed Opportunity School District last month. Voters resoundingly rejected the effort to empower the governor to transfer failing schools into a state-run district but without the promise of any additional funding.

Many critics of public education contend more money doesn’t matter but new research challenges that contention. A recent National Bureau of Economic Research study compared state spending starting in 1990 and found increased funding improved student outcomes.

Harnessing little-used data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress and comparing states that increased funding for their poorest schools with those that did not, researchers found,”Using nationally representative data on student achievement, we find that this spending was productive: Reforms increased the absolute and relative achievement of students in low-income district.”

Certainly, schools that serve a large number of low-income students face far greater challenges. For example, when a trash and crime ridden apartment complex in its attendance zone was deemed uninhabitable in September, Flat Shoals Elementary expected 10 or fewer of its students would be affected, according to Tagami’s news story.

It turned out 50 students were residing with their families in the abandoned complex where the leasing office had been closed for months, rent was no longer collected, mail was not delivered and power was off in many units.

Tagami reports:

The school helped find new housing and MARTA passes for the families. District employees donated luggage and sought clean clothes for students whose parents had no way to wash. Word spread among teachers: give these kids a break if they are late with homework or need to lay their heads on their desks to nap.

Flat Shoals and other schools packed with poor students highlight a challenge for teachers as poverty rises outside school doors: how to provide extras services that can put the poorest students on a stable footing so they can learn. It’s a foreign problem for middle-class schools, but politicians across Georgia will likely have to grapple with it when the General Assembly starts Jan. 9. Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to propose a sweeping overhaul of the state’s decades-old school funding formula, with differing implications for schools based on the number of low-income households they serve.

Though Deal hasn’t divulged his legislative plans, a commission he empanelled in 2015 to study school funding issued a proposal that gives additional dollars to school districts based on the number of “economically disadvantaged” students they enroll.

But observers such as Claire Suggs, a policy analyst with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, a watchdog non-profit, questions the formula’s adequacy. It would apply to only about half the more than 60 percent of Georgia students who currently qualify for subsidized school breakfasts and lunches. And Suggs said the 10 percent in additional dollars per poor student in the formula wasn’t based on an analysis of the cost to provide services.

There’s little information about what the price tag should be. “There’ve been very few empirical studies that are sound that have been able to look at those expenditures for ‘wraparound’ services, as they are called,” said Gary Henry, a professor at Vanderbilt University. He analyzes school turnaround efforts, and he said it probably costs twice as much to adequately educate a child in poverty as a typical middle-class kid — far more than the 10 percent extra that Deal’s Education Reform Commission recommended.

Given the dire circumstances of students at Flat Shoals Elementary and other high-poverty schools, what is the right funding approach?

I told a friend about the triage Flat Shoals Elementary had to provide when its families were forced out of the dilapidated apartment complex. Shocked that adults allowed young children to live in such squalid conditions, she wondered, “Can there ever be enough money for schools to overcome what these kids endure every day?”

Reader Comments 0

59 comments
tomkat1111
tomkat1111

Why not spend the most money on the best and brightest students who will accomplish something in life ?

Astropig
Astropig

@tomkat1111


Why not? Really good question.But...


Why not just fund the schools as intended-equally and fairly,instead of treating one group better than any other? It seems that "fairness" to liberals is situational (like it is with immature children).The above is nothing but (clumsy) politics ginned up by a Soros front group to pit class and race against one another.

tomkat1111
tomkat1111

@Astropig @tomkat1111 Notice that colleges give scholarships based on ability and desire to play. If we used this system to develop scholars who are motivated to learn , we would be better off.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

The issue of funding is not about illegal

immigration,and immigrants should not

be used as a scapegoat on this issue.


EdGraham
EdGraham

The City of Atlanta Government Schools spend more per student than any other school system in the state, yet has the worst graduation rate in the state.  Don't tell me that more money leads to success.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@EdGraham 

Care is needed more than money. But, all kinds of resources, including money, must be forthcoming to change centuries of injustice in America. Those who do not see that must be lacking the empathy gene.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Is this the same NAEP Beverley Hall cited to confirm APS test score progress? Politifact seems to indicate it is, Google it.

Astropig
Astropig

@Frederico Gonzlez III


"Reminds me of Mexico"


Agree.It also reminds me of a house that I am currently restoring in Atlanta.There is absolutely no reason at all for human beings to live this way in 2017.I do feel for the kids,because they have so little control over their no-account parents actions,but pictures like the above are simply being used to start the money cycle that I describe below.History teaches us that even if we double,triple,pooptuple funding for these schools,very little of that money will end up in the classroom because the eduacracy will look at it like a hungry dog looks at a pork chop.Maureen and the AJC won't run photos of the educrats SUV's that they will buy with money raised to solve the problems in the above pictures,but they will try to convince us taxpayers that we are not doing enough to help the less fortunate.It's time for a new approach and I'm dead set opposed to punishing good schools by sending more money into a bottomless pit.

Randy Todd
Randy Todd

We should NEVER stop trying. These kids are our future. And we owe them the same opportunities that our parents gave us. Never give up. God Bless.

Astropig
Astropig

1) Give the school systems more money.


2) They will use that money to hire more teachers.


3) Those teachers will soon become highly paid administrators.


4) Those extra teachers and new administrators will give some of that money intended for the classroom to Democrat politicians,unions and George Soros front groups like the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute


5) Those politicians will hire more teachers and administrators.


6) Repeat 1-5.


There- you've just been shown the Democrat/Liberal Political Money Laundering cycle.





Les_W
Les_W

I have no research to base this on - - - but I've always been of the opinion that the community is a bigger factor when it comes to school performance.  The home and the community are bigger variables than the quality of the teacher or the nature of the curriculum.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik @MaryElizabethSings


I am more hopeful than you are, it seems, that good sense and care for human beings will prevail over partisan politics, even in the near future among Georgia's legislators.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

That is why the Democratic caucus in Georgia's state legislature has an educational plan to involve the communities' resources with the improvement of public schools. Theirs is a sound and wise plan and will be productive, in my opinion.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik @MaryElizabethSings


I have only heard this educational legislative plan described through members of the Democratic Caucus on the news, such as during the 7:00 p.m. daily news program on PBS-TV about what the Georgia legislature is doing when it is in session.  This next year's session should be reconvening in the next couple of weeks.


The Democratic minority leader, Rep.Stacey Abrams, should know about this community educational plan in detail.  It was publicized regularly during the last session of Georgia's legislature. Perhaps you can contact her office in the Capitol when the legislature reconvenes in 2017.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Les_W Why is Drew such a sought-after school? The money,public and private,and the documented time commitment the business community put into it gives you an idea of what it takes to nurture success.

IJS!!!!!!!
IJS!!!!!!!

Its not rocket science folks. The problem with education is that too many of you are focused on researched based studies to determine what/what not to do for our students. The problem is; most of these reform programs/studies are a one size fits all design. The programs/ studies should be generalizable, but there not. What most of these programs/studies have proven to us is that they don't work with a different demographic nor do they work with the same demographic of students who experience a different level of poverty. Hence...the SAT. 


Try this formula:

@ higher more teachers

@ reduce the student teacher ratios

@ allow teachers to teach

@ come up with a different plan for SST/RTI (Too much of the process is driven by teachers)

@ VISIST THE SCHOOLS AND SEE FOR YOURSELF WHAT TYPE OF SUPPORT THE SCHOOLS NEED. DISTRICT LEVEL ADMINISTRATORS ARE QUICK TO SAY WHAT SHOULD WORK AND WHAT WILL NOT WORK. HOWEVER, TOO MANY OF THEM NEVER SPEND ANY QUALITY TIME IN THE SCHOOLS. MEANING, GO TO THE SCHOOLS WITHOUT AN ENTOURAGE, BE UNASSUMING, AND LISTEN TO TEACHERS WHO ARE YOUR MOST RELIABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION AND DATA.


If we are really concerned about educating "ALL OF OUR KIDS", money should not be a factor. However, we must understand and accept that the funding formula should be different for certain schools. The funding formula can not be a one size fits all concept. 

Starik
Starik

@IJS!!!!!!! Not just the funding; the quality of teaching should be improved and more kids should attend school with middle class kids. Segregated schools are the big problem- separate and unequal.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@IJS!!!!!!! Or, to summarize, ask the people teaching and working in these schools what is needed.  Don't look to  Atlanta and some petty functionary or legislator to figure it out and prescribe and proscribe it.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Perhaps the state would consider naming a small sample of schools to throw the door open on, and actually provide the help they believe they need to aid their students.  This could be a selection of urban and rural schools whose test scores and RPPI are low, from Atlanta, a few other cities, and rural north, central and south Georgia, and representative numbers of students we know have extra needs, like ESOL, sped, and low parental education/income. The schools probably should have low turnover, so you could measure the effects of the program.  These would have innovative superintendents and principals willing and able to put their fingers on what their students needs are, in particular, and given leave to hire/move in teachers who desperately believe in the program.  They would also need the mandated buy-in of others, such as the courts, DFACS, the colleges and universities, etc,  that the governor would be able to command.


It would need to be school-specific, of course. For example, in my area, although there are transportation issues, there is NO public transportation or even taxis, so just buying bus passes would not help, but there is still a huge problem for getting parents into the schools.  And while there is a significant Latino population, there are virtually NO other minorities.  What we have here are former Appalachian mill workers, some of whom need help differing from what a south Georgia farmworker would need.


Of course, the commitment would have to be for more than a year; the problems are endemic and will not be solved over a short period. However, after 5 years, we might begin to see what is working, and worth spreading to other schools,and what does not seem to be helping.


These would be "laboratory schools," if you will.


The question is, does the state of Georgia REALLY want to change the outcomes--to marshall all of its energy to bear on what is, at best, difficult?  It's so much easier to blame and nay-say.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

". . .how to provide extras services that can put the poorest students on a stable footing so they can learn. It’s a foreign problem for middle-class schools. . ."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Spending money to help the poorest of the poor in their quality of life will help to increase learning (and thus test scores) more than creating more charter schools, imo.  In addition, the state should increase funding for the mentally ill to improve society overall, which will, in turn, help improve public schools.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Another chapter in the book entitled "How the Democratic Welfare State Continues to Fail".  The chapter before this one was called "Bring Your Diseased Butts to America, Entitlements for All!!!"


"There’s little information about what the price tag should be..."

The "solution" is always the same - mo money, mo money, mo money.  They are already complaining the proposed 10% is not enough.  The fact remains that NO amount of money will be enough to satisfy these government educrats.  Send them the money and they will spend.

-----------------

"The school helped find new housing and MARTA passes for the families."

Not the schools job to find new housing and MARTA passes.

----------------


You will never break the cycle of government dependency by giving even more entitlements. - which is what these "wrap around services" are.  The only way to break the poverty cycle is for the dullards and dim-wits to stop having babies.  Since they are not going to do it voluntarily, the states need to implement MANDATORY BIRTH CONTROL FOR WELFARE RECIPIENTS.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Lee_CPA2 I cannot speak for other systems, but in mine 90% of those Latino students are American citizens born in the USA.

Pelosied
Pelosied

To liberals, the solution is always more money (but never more choices for parents saddled with failing schools).

And God forbid we should ever deem fatherless black children a social problem to be recognized or remedied.

Annie
Annie

Schools and community services must work together to leverage their resources. Starik, teachers are important, yet they are not able alone to address the myriad of issues that many children face. During the last 15 years in Georgia,, education funding has decreased while the number of children in poverty has increased. At the same time, national and state policy has placed the emphasis on test scores as the definition of success which has resulted in diverting dollars that could be spent on addressing challenges of poverty to test-prep efforts.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@Annie

"During the last 15 years in Georgia,, education funding has decreased while the number of children in poverty has increased."


Which begs the question, then why do we allow the illegal aliens to waltz across our borders?  We've got enough issues in this country without importing more.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Lee_CPA2 @Annie


Illegal aliens have little to do with cutting school funds.  That has had to do with Republican ideology, started 15 years ago in Georgia, which wants to cut "government" as much as possible, so that more people are in poverty, unaddressed, and more people with mental illness in Georgia go without care. 


We must diagnose this sad and immoral problem correctly before we can solve it, instead of diverting attention elsewhere. Illegal aliens contribute taxes to our nation with their work here.  The mentally ill do not nor do those caught in the trap of generational poverty.

Dems hate truth
Dems hate truth

@Lee_CPA2 @Annie Because it benefits democrats on both counts. Funding decreased was due to the recession that dragged out far to long thanks to liberal policies. Democrats need their supporters stupid (they have been caught many time over the years saying this) so they have no real interest in educating the poor. Illegals arrive uneducated and vote democrat so it is win win for them. Plus it keeps core democrat groups dependent on handouts from the government.


Why do you think they did not get outraged when the Atlanta democrats were caught rigging school test scores?

Ensuring the children remain uneducated and denying them the chance for tutors and better schools in one shot.


MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Dems hate truth 


Most of what you have written about Democrats is untrue, and simply exposes your preconceived biases.


Your chosen blog name confirms my point regarding your biased thinking.

Annie
Annie

Illegal aliens were brought in to bolster the labor force.

Starik
Starik

@Wascatlady @Dems hate truth @Lee_CPA2 @Annie Nevertheless, the Bush Recession was real, and had a serious impact on the State.  Most of the "illegals" are quite conservative, religious and would vote Republican if the Republicans quit scapegoating them.  They're mostly the poor folks in their own countries, but they went through a lot to get here, work very hard, and like the poor Italians, Germans and Scotch-Irish of the 19th century they will assimilate and be productive citizens.

Starik
Starik

@Annie After WW2 yes. When stupid immigration laws were introduced in the '60s the best Latino workers were not brought in - they came to advance the economic future of their families. They did.

Laurie8750
Laurie8750

@MaryElizabethSings @Lee_CPA2 @Annie Illegal aliens do not pay federal or state tax, unless they have stolen someone's identity to do so.  Yet we are required to educate their children, which puts a strain on taxpayer funded resources.  People who live in poverty or who are mentally ill do contribute taxes as long as they are working.  I don't see how you can correlate one with the other.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Illegal aliens pay taxes on consumer goods.  Most of these people are working.  They came here for the jobs to take care of their families.  Why should we persecute them in our minds for that?


Most mentally ill people cannot work because their condition is so severe that they are not able to handle the working day.  Therefore, they do not pay taxes and are dependent on their families or become street people who often end up incarcerated, which is no answer to their specific mental problems.  Prison only makes their problems worse.

 Extreme poverty creates Depression and a loss of hope so that these people may not be employable, just as veterans with Traumatic Depression cannot work.

@Laurie8750 @MaryElizabethSings @Lee_CPA2 @Annie 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Laurie8750 @MaryElizabethSings @Lee_CPA2 @Annie Ever heard of a Tax ID?  Yes, they DO pay taxes unless they work "under the table."  I know quite a few "white folks" who work under the table.  Illegal aliens pay property taxes unless they live under a bridge or inside a church or cemetery.  And, you know, I have NEVER seen that special line at Walmart for illegal aliens who don't pay sales tax!  You are parroting what you have heard and want to believe, instead of reality.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Dems hate truth @Lee_CPA2 @Annie So funny that you parrot trump and then attribute it to Democrats! "(Democrats need their supporters stupid (they have been caught many time over the years saying this) )"

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Laurie8750 @MaryElizabethSings @Lee_CPA2 @Annie


"  And, you know, I have NEVER seen that special line at Walmart for illegal aliens who don't pay sales tax! "


Totally agree-But sales taxes are not  used to fund schools.Those taxes are paid by property owners at the local level.The only exception is SPLOST taxes.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @Wascatlady @Laurie8750 @MaryElizabethSings @Lee_CPA2 @Annie Yes, I know.  But I hear so much "Illegals don't pay taxes" which is full-blown malarkey.  And I am being nice about saying it that way.  Might as well cover all the common taxes we all pay.


(Around here, the white folks who work under the table call it "for cash-money.")


I find it laughable that the same people who say illegals don't pay income tax unless they steal someone's SS number are the same ones who charge that these same illegals get all kinds of refunds. 


Learn about tax IDs!  Knowledge is our friend!

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig @Laurie8750 @MaryElizabethSings @Lee_CPA2 @Annie


" Yes, I know.  But I hear so much "Illegals don't pay taxes" which is full-blown malarkey"


Yes- I agree again.Sales and consumption taxes are definitely paid by illegals and every other category of citizens.That's why I am personally in favor of using those hard-to-evade,totally fair taxes to "fully fund" these statist schemes that make everything "fair".That way,everybody has some skin in the game at every level on most issues.


I am currently typing this from Tennessee.Saturday night,I was in line to buy some New Years "refreshments" at a local store.I buy German beer exclusively.(Buy the best!).


But,the guy in line ahead of me was buying some expensive bottles of champagne,no doubt Moet Chandon.But he and I both paid taxes,no ifs ands or buts.No politician could use my tax money to buy his vote or vice versa.It all goes in the pot here in Tennessee.That's why we don't have 1 1/10th the class and racial strife that is extant in Georgia.Everybody is in it all together.