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School funding, structure challenges lie ahead

Posted: June 16, 2012 - 11:00pm

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/
barrypaschal.)

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Comments (6)

Craig Spinks

Popular faith in GAPubEd finances...

will be restored only after all our state's publicly-funded educational enterprises are scrutinized by competent, disinterested, out-of-state entities.

And, no, the GDOE, the GA Department of Audits and Accounts, the GSBA, SACS as well as Cherry, Bekaert and Holland don't meet these criteria.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

Riverman1

Richmond County Could Have 9 Furlough Days

Richmond County programmed the capability to have 9 furlough days as a way to save money. Why didn't Columbia County? Also Georgia teachers are very well paid compared to others nationally, especially when the cost of living is factored in. Lastly, if qualified teachers, looking for jobs are willing to work much cheaper, why not?

soapy_725

looking to government

Looking to government to solve problems. Reasonable people solve problems. Local people. If your roof is leaking, you make room in your budget to fix it. You plan for rainy days. Government builds another school building. Efficiency, responsibility and discipline have to be restored to the offices of PUBLIC SERVANTS. It must be demanded. It is the right of the public. If you buy a defective product, you take it back and get your money. We allow incompetence self servicing people to "keep their hands in our pockets" everyday.

soapy_725

third graders

Would you allow a group of third graders to manage you IRA or life savings? Would you allow them to do a quadruple bypass surgery on your spouse? The "perception of awe" about elected officials is comparable to "preacher worship". Flawed humans, when found, cannot be allowed to set the course of history. We know the tragic results of this kind of thinking.

csrareader

Retirement System

The Government education system is suffering the same fate as other Companies that provide defined benefit retirement programs. These retirement programs are not sustainable. Think PONZI scheme. Eventually the money runs dry.

Riverman1

Retirement System in Trouble

From past articles I've read the health care portion of the state retirees will consume the ENTIRE state budget in about a decade. So this thing sits in the room and no one wants to address the matter. As a way to cut educators' compensation why not drastically increase the health care contribution for retirees? I mean make them pay almost everything because it's only for about ten years before they enroll in Medicare if most retire in their mid-fifties.

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