This summer, the chairmen of Georgia’s House and Senate appropriations committees are to suggest revising the formula for funding Georgia’s public schools.
It would be nice if the politicians would take the opportunity to show they actually support public schools, because their recent track record has demonstrated just the opposite.
We’ve seen the effect of repeated budget cuts here in Columbia County. The school system has received less money each year from the state despite enrolling more students.
How’s that working? See if Georgia Power will let you slide the next time your power bill goes up. Or try buying thousands of gallons of diesel fuel at ever-rising prices, but with less money. There are substantial costs involved in running a school system with nearly 24,000 students, and those costs rise just like your household bills – only they’re far bigger.
The state currently funds school systems through the Quality Basic Education formula. They’ve never fully funded QBE, and lately they’ve been reducing the amount they do fund.
From 2001 to FY 2013, annual per-pupil QBE funding has fallen from $3,600 to less than $3,200 when adjusted for inflation.
School expenses have been “adjusting” for inflation, too – mostly by rising. Yet state funding of its own formula for those schools has been dwindling.
Who picks up the slack? First and foremost, the people who work in the school system. Columbia County isn’t alone in the number of staff layoffs in the past few years. Even with nearly 500 more students expected to enroll next year, the system will employ almost 70 fewer teachers by packing more kids into each classroom.
It’s an awfully tough time to find a job in education. Making it worse, the timing uncomfortably coincides with the graduation of would-be teachers who just a few years ago were encouraged to help alleviate a state teacher shortage.
So, with so many teachers being cut, why not follow the law of supply and demand and reduce pay for educators?
Never mind that it wasn’t so long ago that Georgia managed to get its abysmal teacher pay to an equitable level. The state, which has been cutting the money it gives local systems, also mandates the minimum level of pay for educators.
That’s like Georgia Power raising your electricity bill, and cutting your salary at the same time.
But is that a “reform” we want – to pay educators even less, while siphoning millions in public education dollars away to private companies? (Wait – you thought all those tax-deductible, private-school grants were pure as the driven snow, didn’t you? Guess again.)
I don’t think so. Rather, once Georgians see even more damage to their kids’ educations from crowded classrooms and demoralized teachers, they might start to figure out that the problem isn’t overpaid educators. It’s underperforming politicians.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/